Chapter 6 Corpse Dumping Ground

We stopped the boat. This should be the most dangerous part of the water cave, so we couldn’t just rush in if we weren’t prepared. Uncle Three looked at his watch and said, “This corpse cave is a place you can easily enter but can’t get out of. I’ve been a grave robber for a long time now but this is the first time I’ve ever come into a place like this. I think it’s possible that this cave contains something really strange!”

Pan Zi interrupted in a low voice, “Shit, that goes without saying.”

Uncle Three glared at him and then continued, “But this is just the old man’s side of the story. We have no way of knowing whether this cave can only be entered by the boatman or not. If this cave really is a corpse cave,” he stressed, “then there must be danger up ahead. As for what we’ll encounter, we have no way of knowing that either. Maybe it’ll be a ghost-hitting-a-wall(1) kind of situation and we won’t know where the boat is going. Or maybe hundreds of water ghosts will come to overturn our boat.”

Da Kui sucked in a breath, “No way.”

“In short, anything can happen. It’s really bad luck for us to encounter so many dangers even before we’ve arrived at the tomb. But in any case, you can’t be afraid of ghosts when robbing tombs. If you are afraid of ghosts, then you don’t need to be a grave robber. Since we’re doing this kind of job, it doesn’t make much sense not to encounter some strange things.” Uncle Three motioned for Pan Zi to take out the double-barrel shotgun from his backpack. “But we now have high-tech weapons in hand, which is much more advantageous than what our predecessors had back in the old days. If there are really water ghosts here, it’s also their bad luck!”

Seeing Da Kui still trembling in fear, I said to Uncle Three, “Why does your rallying speech sound more like a ghost story? It looks like it actually had the opposite effect.”

Uncle Three loaded the shotgun, “This guy is really humiliating me this time. I didn’t expect him to be so useless. Before this fucker came here, he was bragging like he was Niō.”(2) He passed the gun over to Poker-Face and said to him, “You have two shots in total and then you’ll have to reload. These are all buckshot, so they have no power at a distance. Be sure to aim before you shoot.”

I was very familiar with double-barreled shotguns and had even won awards for skeet shooting when I was a child so I picked one up. Uncle Three and Da Kui held knives in one hand while they continued to punt us forward with the folding shovels in their other hands. Pan Zi, Poker-Face, and I all held guns as we slowly moved towards the corpse dumping ground that was bathed in that glowing green light.

Under the faint light from the miner’s lamps, I found that the cave was getting bigger and bigger and the green light was getting closer and closer. I heard Poker-Face on the side say something in a foreign language and then I heard Pan Zi start cursing up a storm. Then I saw a scene that I will never be able to forget.

When we reached the part of the cave with the green light, it suddenly became a huge natural cavern and the waterway became a river. The shallows on both sides of the waterway were full of rotting green corpses, but there was no way to tell whether they were human or animal. We could also see that the rows of skeletons closest to the innermost part of the cave were stacked very neatly, which seemed to indicate that someone had piled them up there. The ones further out, however, were messy. This was especially so for the ones on the edge of the river. They were lying in various positions and many of the corpses hadn’t completely decomposed.

Without exception, all of these corpses were covered in something like a gray film, which was tightly wrapped around them like plastic wrap. From time to time, a few huge corpse-eaters would burst out of a few corpses. They were much smaller than the one on our boat, but they were still four or five times larger than ordinary ones. Some small corpse-eaters wanted a piece of the pie, but as soon as they climbed onto the bodies, the big corpse-eaters would eat them.

“Most of these bodies floated down from upstream and then ran aground here. Be careful, everyone. Look around and see if there’s something strange!”

“Look!” The sharp-eyed Da Kui pointed to one side of the cave wall. We all turned to look and saw a green crystal coffin set vertically in the cave wall. It looked like it was floating in midair and there seemed to be a white-clothed female corpse inside of it, but it was too far away for us to see clearly.

“There’s another one there!” Pan Zi pointed to the other side, and we saw that, sure enough, there was a crystal coffin in the same position on the other side of the cave wall. But this one was empty!

Uncle Three sucked in a breath. “Where’s the body?”

“Is it a zombie?” Da Kui asked. “Master Three, there shouldn’t be any zombies in this place, right?”

“Pay attention, all of you. If you see anything moving, don’t ask questions and just shoot first,” Uncle Three said while looking around warily.

At this time, we went around a bend in the river and bypassed a pile of bones. Da Kui suddenly cried out in fright and fell down in the boat. The rest of us took a closer look and saw a woman in a dress made of white feathers. She had her back to us and her long black hair fell all the way down to her waist. After seeing the adornments on her outfit, I concluded that it was from the Western Zhou Dynasty.

I swallowed past the lump in my throat and said, “Here’s the corpse—”

“Stop—stop—” Uncle Three wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Da Kui, get the black donkey hoof from the bag! This is probably a thousand-year-old zombie, so grab the 1923 hoof. I’m afraid she won’t accept a newer one.”(3)

He repeated this twice, but Da Kui still didn’t move. When we looked back at him, we found that he was foaming at the mouth and twitching convulsively. Had it not been for the tense atmosphere, I would have laughed.

“Pan Zi, go get it. I deserve to get eaten by a zombie if I ever bring him with me again in the future.” Uncle Three took the black donkey hoof and spat on both hands before saying, “Get a good look at Master Three’s skills, dear nephew. This thousand-year-old zombie is a rare sight. If I don’t succeed, you can just shoot me in the head so that I can die quickly and without any pain!”

I pulled him back, “Are you sure you can handle this?”

In fact, I wasn’t particularly afraid. I had never encountered this kind of thing before, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this slender woman in plain clothes seemed a little sad. But in horror movies, things normally weren’t as terrifying once the woman with long hair and white clothes turned around. That psychological effect was definitely at play here, so my heart was still beating very fast.

At this time, Poker-Face also pressed down on Uncle Three’s shoulder and said, “Black donkey’s hooves are for zombies. I’m afraid this thing isn’t a zombie. Let me do it.” He took out a long object from his bag, which I knew was the dragon back thing he had bought from my Uncle Three before. After he loosened the cloth on the thing, I found that it was an ancient jet-black sword that appeared to be made from black iron.

He slid the ancient blade across the back of his hand and then stood at the bow of the boat and let his blood drip into the water. Just after the first few drops fell, there was a loud “crash” and then all of the corpse-eaters came crawling out of the bodies and frantically retreated from our boat like they had seen a ghost. In just a few seconds, all of the corpse-eaters in the water and in the corpses had run away from our boat.

It didn’t take long before Poker-Face’s hand was covered in blood. He pointed his bloody hand at the woman in white, who actually knelt down, much to our surprise. Poker-Face then said to Uncle Three, “Go, don’t look back!”

Although I really wanted to see what the woman looked like, I decided not to take the risk at the thought that I might look back and end up seeing a mummy’s face. Uncle Three and Pan Zi rowed desperately until we finally saw a smaller cave in front of us, which was similar to the cave we had initially entered through. It seemed that this cavern was in the center of the mountain, and the waterway had only been created after both sides had been dug through. It eventually became a capillary-like structure with narrow entrances and exits on both sides. But even if the caves on both sides disappeared, the inside would still remain dry.

As we gradually moved into the grave robbers’ tunnel, we had to lower our heads again. But before entering the tunnel, I couldn’t help but think that he had only said I couldn’t look back, right? I could still look at the reflection in the water to see if she was following us since that technically wasn’t looking back. But after looking, I felt as if all of the air had been knocked out of my chest.

In the water’s reflection, I saw something lying on my back.

I almost shouted and reflexively turned to look back, only to feel something hit me hard in the back of the head. Before I knew it, my vision went dark and I lost consciousness. 

<Chapter 5><Table of Contents><Chapter 7>


TN Notes:

(1) “Ghost hitting a wall” is a Chinese folk phrase that describes a situation where you get lost and end up going in circles. The idea is that when traveling in remote areas, a person is obstructed by walls that ghosts have placed in front of them, thus forcing that person to wander in endless circles. People also use this term to describe problems with no real solution. 

(2) Per Tiffany: Niō are two wrathful and muscular guardians of the Buddha standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in East Asian Buddhism in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. Link here.

(3) Black donkey hooves are said to ward off zombies and vampires (aka jiangshi or Chinese hopping vampires). It’s said that if you stick the hoof into their mouth, it takes away their powers.

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