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Shadow in the Mist
I never knew my grandfather. I don’t even know when he died, perhaps shortly after I was born. I’ve never asked about him and my parents never talked about him either.
People say that we are never alone; our ancestors are always around us, watching over us. I found it ludicrous but I’ve never argued about it. The people who believe in such things will never waver in their beliefs anyway, so why bother. I usually just humour them.
I was eight years old and my school was closed for the winter. Every winter, my parents would pack up for the long haul to Juni, high in the mountains. My uncle lived there, and we loved spending my school holidays breathing the fresh mountain air and enjoying the spectacular sceneries.
On one of our visits in Juni, I remember playing with the neighbourhood kids from morning right until late afternoon without returning home at all. I was racing around in a homemade plywood box car when I heard my mother screaming my name from behind. I knew she wanted me home, but I was having too much fun to stop, so I rode on without a care. Later on, after my new friends and I had stopped box-car racing, we played with a cute puppy we found in someone’s front yard. While playing, I felt a sharp sting on my leg. I shrieked and jumped. The other kids laughed and then scurried away.
“Didn’t you hear me calling you?” my mother said through clenched teeth.
She whipped the cane on my legs one more time and then pinched and wrung my ear as she led me back to the house. As a clever and manipulative eight-year-old, I cried excessively to attract the attention of my father, who then scolded my mother for being too strict. It always worked—my father was such a softy.
“Go now and clean yourself up!” Mother pushed me in the direction of the bathroom.
At the dinner table, my uncle talked about how happy he was to have us there. His wife and he did not have children, so they were happy that I liked being there. He often asked me if I would consider staying with him and his wife in their mountain home during my school holidays. I was exhilarated with the idea, but my parents were not thrilled about me staying for weeks away from home, so it never happened.
Soon, it was bedtime. My parents had a bed for themselves, but I had only a mattress, which was laid on the floor beside their bed. The room would have been completely dark if not for the moonlight flooding through the opened grilled window. It was a full-moon night, so the light was bright. I could see everything in the room quite clearly.
With my head buried snugly in the valley of my pillow, I gazed at the clouds outside the window. The plumes of thick fog passed quickly by. I moved my head aside and caught only a sliver of the moon. It was a surreal play of white and grey against black. As engrossed as I was in the ballet of the havens, I still noticed a movement to the left of me. Startled, I turned. Bathed by the light from the moon, a glowing, misty figure began to form near the wall. The brume danced and swirled into a thicker mass of cloud. Then something dark floated out from the mist. Fear immediately seized me. I could not move nor cry out, so I shut my eyes and lay still, hoping the apparition would go away.
“Dear, I’m your grandfather. Don’t ever worry.” A whispery but hoarse voice filled my ears.
I jolted, and my eyes flashed open. Floating at the foot of my mattress was a wispy man looking at me with affection. I was shivering and screaming for my mother and father, but they were totally oblivious to my predicament.
“Don’t worry, dear. I’m your grandfather and I will always watch over you,” the figure said.
Suddenly, a cockerel on the roof pierced the night with its jarring caw. The figure vanished. I sprang up, gasping for air.
Was it a dream? I wondered.
I can’t really say if it was a dream or not. But I’m glad I have not encountered the figure again, ancestor or not.
Ariel, 30. Student. China.
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