Chapter 9 Stone Person

Few people would be able to react immediately after coming all that way in a daze and suddenly finding that such a thing had appeared right in front of them.

Lao Yang and I involuntarily tried to take a step back in order to keep our distance from it, but we found that our legs wouldn’t seem to move. Although our hearts were pounding like crazy, it was like our bodies were petrified.

Lao Yang was a little braver than me and took a deep breath before shouting to the person, “You…who are you?”

The person didn’t react at all and just continued to stand there motionless, as if they were made of stone.

“Why do you think they’re ignoring us?” Lao Yang asked me in a low voice. “Old Wu, do you think Old Man Liu was right and we’ve met a ghost soldier?”

A cold gust of wind suddenly blew past, bringing me back to my senses. “Don’t panic,” I said to him. “If it’s really a person, then you don’t need to be afraid of them. Let’s get a better look!” As I spoke, I took out my flashlight and pointed it toward that motionless figure.

The “person” was standing in the middle of the gap and dressed in a strange ancient outfit that revealed bare arms that were a gray color. In the dark shadow of the mountain gap, it made for an extremely strange sight. Moreover, the person didn’t respond at all even though the flashlight was suddenly pointing right at them.

It was only at this time that I noticed that something was wrong.

A bunch of green moss was actually growing on this person’s body.

No living creature except for a turtle would allow a bunch of moss to grow on their body…right? I took an even closer look and found that this “person” wasn’t made of “flesh” but actually seemed to have been carved out of stone. But the carving was done so realistically that this statue almost appeared lifelike in the dim light.

Despite the absurdity of the situation, I couldn’t bring myself to laugh—this stone person was simply too amazing. The carving was so realistic that even looking at it up close had us feeling so creeped out that we were covered in a cold sweat.

Still feeling a sense of lingering fear, we walked over to it and found that this stone person’s lower body had been crushed under a pile of rubble and its head was gone, leaving only its neck. It had probably fallen down from above when the stones further up the cliff had collapsed. I looked up and saw that, sure enough, there was a place further up the cliff where the rocks seemed loose. But the mountain walls sloped in such a way as to form a dead angle, and I couldn’t see what the actual situation was like up there.

The stone person’s bare arms were a clear indication that this wasn’t a statue carved in the Han style. I had never seen this style of clothing before, but I could tell through the faded coloring that there were patterns of double-bodied snakes that had been carved onto it. I figured the missing head had probably been smashed to pieces when it fell down here.

After seeing all of this, I was certain that this thing was a stone figurine that was usually buried with the dead.

I craned my neck back and looked up again—if the stone figurine had fallen from above, then that meant that there was something up there.

Lao Yang was so impatient that he had already started climbing up the cliff before I had the chance to finish examining everything. I quickly followed him up, moving along the slope bit by bit until I reached the spot where the collapse had occurred.

It seemed to be a shallow pit that had been dug into the mountain wall. There were many stone figurines inside of the pit that looked similar to the one down below, but the strange thing was, their heads had been replaced with human skulls that had been stuck in place with clay.

I knew that this kind of thing was called a “human head burial figurine”. In ancient times, during war, it was very difficult for soldiers to bring the enemy’s corpse back to claim their reward, so they would often cut off the deceased’s head and place it on a stone statue. That way, it was like a living person was buried alongside the dead.

There had originally been murals all around the inside walls of the shallow pit, but countless years of rain had washed them into unrecognizable blocks of color. At the far end of the pit was a statue that had been carved into the mountain wall. Its chest area looked like it had been blown up, and only one arm and half of a shoulder were left.

There was a dark hole the size of a basketball in the middle of this chest cavity. I became so excited when I saw it that I impatiently took my flashlight out and pointed it into the depths of the hole. As it turned out, there was actually a huge space further inside.

My instincts were telling me that there may be an ancient tomb behind this huge stone statue, and it may well be the main tomb that Lao Yang’s sacrificial pit served. But based on the blast marks here, it looked like some unknown expert had already been to this place.

Generally speaking, whoever built a tomb in a place like this must have been a prominent person, but the one who could rob such a tomb had to be the best of the best. After all, no ordinary grave robber could ever imagine that there would be a whole other universe above his head, even if he walked back and forth through Narrow Ravine hundreds of times.

Lao Yang and I discussed our options and decided to go in first since our destination was close by anyways. If there was nothing in this place, then we could just head back without too much trouble. Those in our line of work couldn’t resist going into caves or holes. Otherwise, we’d regret it for the rest of our lives.

Lao Yang was relatively thin so he was the first to crawl into the hole. His feet couldn’t touch the ground since the opening on the other side was set relatively high up, so he had to cling to the wall instead. I handed him a flashlight, which he used to take a look around. “Fuck me, there’s a lot of water in here,” he said.

I stuck my head inside the hole and saw that there was a large vaulted stone chamber that had been excavated. There were some traces of murals at the top and the water level was so high that it almost reached the edge where the vaulted ceiling began. Under the water’s surface, we could see that shallow niches had been carved into the four stone walls, and more of those moss-covered headless stone figurines had been placed in them. I couldn’t tell whether all the water had accumulated from rainwater that had flowed in or if there was some other explanation for how it got here.

Lao Yang told me that when he was here last time, the stone figurine hadn’t been at the bottom of the ravine so the hole must have been made sometime over the past three years. This meant that the water here couldn’t be accumulated rainwater.

I told him to be careful, but he was confident in his swimming abilities and simply lowered himself into the water bit by bit. But when the water suddenly reached his chest, he was so startled that he almost slipped and lost his grip.

I was completely speechless when I saw this—the water was way too deep. “Try touching the bottom,” I said to him. “Is it mud or stone?”

“I can’t touch the bottom,” Lao Yang said. “Shit, this water is really fucking cold.”

I pulled out two tarps from our backpacks and wrapped them around our bags before handing Lao Yang his backpack and putting mine on my back. Once that was done, I carefully slipped into the water, my whole body shivering as I immediately felt a chill rise up from the soles of my feet.

I finally realized just how deep the water was when I tried to feel for the ground but my feet came up empty. I never imagined that we would have to work in water so I didn’t prepare any equipment to deal with it. As a result, we had no other choice but to swim further inside with only the help of our flashlights to light the way.

After swimming for a while, I suddenly noticed an opening in the stone on the innermost wall.

This opening wasn’t very tall since the water level was so high, but we could tell that it led to a dark stone passage that was about as wide as two liberation trucks. We swept our flashlights into the passage and found that the walls were made of a bluish-gray stone, with signs of rough chiseling on them. There were also murals in some places, but they were so corroded that it was impossible to tell what was depicted on them.

After swimming more than ten meters forward, the stone passage suddenly made a ninety-degree turn. When I swept my flashlight into the depths of the darkness and found that it seemed terrifyingly endless, I couldn’t help but stop, too afraid to rush in.

In our present situation, it actually wouldn’t be wise to go further inside. I was already nervous since the water was so deep that I couldn’t see the bottom, but I knew I’d be scared to death if something were to come out of the water later, even if it was a simple piece of wood.

Lao Yang looked at the stone walls surrounding us and asked, “Have you noticed that although this tomb is quite large, it looks like it was poorly built? And look at these stone blocks. Each one is uglier than the last. It’s almost like they’ve never been processed at all. Maybe the owner of this tomb wasn’t very rich and ran out of money to decorate the place after digging out the mountain.”

“This may just be the outermost edge of the overall tomb area,” I replied. “As you can see, there are a bunch of unfinished stone figurines here. This may be the place where the tomb craftsmen quarried and carved the stones. If we look further inside, it should become clearer.”

We continued swimming for a few minutes and finally passed the turn, but when we did, I heard a few dull splashing sounds coming from the water in the darkness up ahead, as if something were sneaking up on us underwater.

I grabbed Lao Yang’s hand and forced him to point his flashlight in the direction the sound had come from. When he did, I suddenly saw a triangular ripple appear on the water’s surface and then instantly disappear from sight.

I didn’t even have time to figure out what it was before Lao Yang slapped my hand away, turned around, and shouted, “Run!”

<Chapter 8><Table of Contents><Chapter 10>


4 thoughts on “Chapter 9 Stone Person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s