A/N: Okay, this is my first real story on this site, so I'm most likely sweating bullets as I type. Yes, I know; I'm nervous! I've been doing a lot of research on Chinese vampires, a lot of it from those cheezy Chinese horror films. But they're fun to watch, especially the ones from the 1980's. Anyways, read and review. And be freaking honest, people!
(3rd draft: Many thanks to Melissa Norvell, kumyki, 'Open your eyes Chopstick' & Victoria Stokes for your suggestions.)
By Fox Trot 9
Near Chengde, China
September 18, 1977
The killings, which would terrify and perplex the authorities for the next three decades, began with a small artifact glinting in the fading overcast of an early autumn sky, nearing sunset in a dig site between Inner Mongolia and Heibei Province. That glint caught the eye of Sammo Hung, a 32-year-old man in a dusty plaid shirt and dustier slacks from overseeing the dig all day, appearing as the imposing silhouette of an Indiana Jones without his hat against the quickening backdrop of the sky.
For most of the six hours of his shift, he had been doing double duty—directing the workers on where they should dig according to this day's plan, and updating his mentor and curator of the Nanjing Municipal Museum, Dr. Xiou Godenzi, on the findings. Those findings, however,—a few bronze spearheads and arrowheads, shards of pottery and two or three pieces of the turtle shell armor the ancient Chinese infantry wore—were of little importance to Dr. Godenzi; he was looking for something else, though Sammo hadn't a clue. So when he saw that glint, he thought it was just another arrowhead, but he thought it over on a second glance.
He looked at the object glinting the greenish hue of rusted bronze, but his instincts told him it was something different. Curious, he climbed down the ladder into the pit, where the rest of the diggers shoveled dirt and carried it out by the bucket load. He crouched, took out his spade and carefully dug around the artifact, so he wouldn't damage it; when he lifted it out and got all the dirt clots off, he stood and examined it for a while. It was something to whistle at. It was a ring made of nephrite, a rare kind of jade not found too often in the dusty steppes of northern China. And beyond that, it had a seal on it, making it the most promising find yet in Dr. Godenzi's seemingly futile attempt to prove his theory of what really happened here all those distant centuries ago.
So the old geezer was right, after all, thought Sammo. Something really did happen here. After telling the rest of the diggers to take off for the rest of the day, he climbed the ladder out of the hole and walked over to the tent, big enough to encompass a small bathroom. "Dr. Godenzi, I think I found something. A jade ring."
Dr. Godenzi looked up from his text books. At seventy-six, he was the perfect image of a cue ball-headed curator, not a single wisp of hair atop his sun-burned scalp, and wearing thick round-lensed glasses. And no less uglier, either. "Really, now?"
When Sammo entered into the light of the tent, he looked different from the Indiana Jones of the outside. He was of mixed parentage, bearing the thin and pale Nordic features of his mother on his face, while still possessing the Chinese black hair and brown eyes of his father. He sat down across from his mentor, showing him his find. "And there appears to be some kind of seal on it, though it's hard to make out."
"Any idea how old the script is?"
"It might be from the early Shang Dynasty (1), maybe even older than that by the looks of it."
Dr. Godenzi raised his brows, wrinkling his wrinkly forehead, which he rarely does. A sign that told Sammo he was interested in his find, for once. "Are you saying they're older than the oracle bones (2) from Henan?"
"Take a look for yourself," and he handed it to him.
The older man took out a magnifying glass and examined the marks under the light of a lamp on his desk. Silence. "Sammo, you finally gave me a real puzzler to pick at. It's an ancient form of Chinese script, far older than the script on the oracle bones, as far as I can tell."
Sammo looked at him. "Do you think it could be from the Xia Dynasty (3)? At least, that's what I think."
"Older than that."
Sammo leaned back on his chair, staring at his older colleague, then at the ring he was holding. "You're kidding, right? The time of the Five Emperors (4)? That's—"
"Crazy, I know; but a grain of truth lies at the heart of every legend, even in the ones as ancient as that. And remember this, too. Legend has it that during the time of the Five Emperors, a time when China was still in the Neolithic Age, Cangjie (5) invented the Chinese script to record the transactions made in the Yellow Emperor's (6) court."
"You have any idea what it says?"
"As of yet, I don't know." Then the old man took out another set of books from a bookcase to his left, cross-referencing them as he examined the script on the seal. "If that's all you have for me, then you may go. I'll stay here for another hour, then I'll be on my way."
Sammo nodded and was about to get up and go, when he thought of something else. "There's something I need to talk to you about."
The old man raised his head again. "And what's that?"
"It's about your theory. We all know what the legend says of the battle of Zhuolu (7). After defeating the Yan Emperor (8) in the battle of Banquan (9), the Yellow Emperor united the tribes, then fought off Chi You (10) and his tribes in the battle of Zhuolu to make up at least part of the China we know today. But do you actually think those battles happened here?"
"Yes. Believe me, I have my hunches. Now let's see here," and he picked up another book, turning it to a page of reconstructed Shang Dynasty text and stooping over the characters in the book and the ones on ring. He raised his brows again. "On second thought, I think you may want to stick around for a while longer. I think we might be one the verge of a discovery here, but I need your help to make certain."
Sammo looked at the old man, then decided it might be worth his while if his stayed. He'd rather be in the know than stay ignorant in his apartment until tomorrow morning. So he picked up another book, lit another lamp and hung it over their heads before pouring over the contents of ancient Chinese script. On the ring, two characters appeared to make up the seal, so the two decided to work as a team, each handling one character, each trying to find similarities of each in the books they had.
Then came the eureka moment. After three hours of analysis, a cross-eyed Godenzi put down his book and leaned back on his chair, staring up at the ceiling with half-glazed eyes, deep in thought. His old heart was pounding, as he tried to comprehend the reality of his revelation. Something of a grin wrinkled up his gaunt face.
Which wasn't lost on Sammo when he looked up, still baffled about his character. He said, "It looks like you found something."
The old man's grin widened as if to say, You have no idea, my boy.
"What is it?"
The old man turned to him, almost in hysterics. "Do you have any idea what the first character says on this seal?" he said, holding the ring up to Sammo's face. But when he nodded no, the old man said, "Huang. That's what it says: Huang!"
"Whoa, wait a minute. Huang? As in...Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor?"
"Ah, there you go again. Coming to conclusions before you truly get a close look at it," and he showed the ring to Sammo beneath the light of the lamp over their heads, pointing to the seal. "Look at this; look at the shape of the first character. There are three small horizontal lines, one atop the other, over a longer horizontal base line; it's very rudimentary, I know. But from what I can surmise, this character is not the character for not the color, yellow. It's the character for blood. Blood! Can you believe that? But don't cite me on that yet; I'm just speculating for now. But off the top of my head, I'd say the person this ring belongs to must have been a tyrant, or at least someone who was feared even by the likes of the Yellow Emperor himself."
"Like Chi You? He was a tyrant."
"No, not Chi You. The Yellow Emperor defeated him, remember? He need not fear anyone that he can defeat. It must be someone whose very name is off the ancient records."
Sammo looked perplexed at the old man. "Why didn't historians back then include his name, if he was that infamous?"
"That's exactly my point. Why wouldn't they remember someone like that? You see, and this is my reasoning here, maybe they feared him so much that his very name, Huang-something, Blood-something, became something of a curse word. You see where I'm getting at?"
"You're starting to sound superstitious, Dr. Godenzi. That's not like you."
"I've studied archeology for over fifty years. When you spend that much time looking into the past, you cannot help but feel spooked every now and then. Especially when you're alone, and your mind is filled to the brim with past occurrences, because you're essentially looking into the lives of long-dead ghosts through the tangible objects they might have held or used. Think of a sword from the Han Dynasty, and try to imagine how much blood has spilled over its edge; think of all the deaths it's caused. Think of archeology in those terms, and you'll be thrilled with each new finding, trust me."
Silence. A chill went up Sammo's spine.
"By the way, how are you doing with your part?"
"Not much here; I think you got it easier, because the character I have is barely even visible."
The old man looked at the seal on the ring. "I see."
Sammo looked at his watch; it was nearing 10:00 p.m. He couldn't believe three had slipped by that quickly; but then again, whenever he found himself involved in the things that truly interested the doctor—whether in findings like this, or in the books—, he always got home late. In this case, very late. "How much longer are you going to stay here? It's getting pretty late, you know."
"Another hour, and I'll be done...You may leave if you want. You've already done enough for the time being."
Sammo nodded, got up and said, "All right, I'll be off then. I'll check in tomorrow to see what else you've got," and after he said his goodbye he left, thankful he could still find at least one of the guards still on duty near the perimeter gate of the dig site. He walked over told that guard to wait for Dr. Godenzi before retiring himself, then got into his car and drove toward the distant glow of Chengde's lights.
Now by himself, Godenzi tried his hand at the second character on the ring. And his colleague was right. The second character was barely visible even in the light of his lamp. He still kept at it, though, cross-referencing what he thought he saw with the characters in the books. He was tenacious, that's for sure; he might have grown old and bald, and his strength wasn't quite what it used to be, but he still had the drive of a young man. Only instead of directing that drive to women, he directed it to his work. He was the definition of a workaholic and a night-owl. For the next three hours, he worked.
It was past 1:00 a.m. when he finally cracked the code.
He put down his book, took out a sheet of paper and a pen, then wrote out the second character: Ying. "Shadow," he said. "Huang Ying. Blood Shadow. Who could that be?"
He looked at what he'd just written, even more cross-eyed now; in fact, the words themselves began to blur, and he knew it was time to call it quits. Even workaholics had limits. But despite his vision, he felt giddy with excitement. If only Sammo had stuck it out the whole nine yards, they'd both be having drinks at the local pub in Chengde to celebrate their first finding. He then gathered up his papers and stuffed them in the folders, before placing it all in his file bag. Then he got out into the open air, expecting to see the guard waiting for him.
But the guard wasn't there.
He called out to the guard, but he received no reply; he went to the entrance of the gate to see where he was off to, but no luck there. Damn these lazy bums! They're paid to do so simple a task, and yet they can't even live up to that!
Oh well. The guard was out of sight, and therefore out of mind. As he walked over to his car though, he saw a black figure lying about his car. He fished out a flashlight from his file bag, turned it on and aimed it at the figure. And what he saw filled him to the heights of anger. It was the guard, sitting motionless in the dirt, his back resting next to the driver side door of his car; and when he walked closer for a better look, he thought he was sleeping with his mouth open.
Sleeping on the job. What a pity, he thought. I'll have your ass for sleeping on the job, you lazy bum!
He kicked at the guard, but he didn't move. He kicked him harder this time. Still no movement. The old man then crouched down, feeling his lower back and knees crackle and pop, and looked at the guard, shining the light on his face. Then he felt for a pulse at the nape of his neck and drew breath—there was none. The guard must either be dead or unconscious, and he hoped it was the latter. Time passed. As the beats in his heart began to slow down, and he shined the light on his face again. And just out of curiosity, he reached out and pulled back the eyelids. What he saw made his stomach clamp down, threatening to drive the bile out through his mouth as he screamed, dropping the flashlight as he drew back and fell.
His eyes were gone!
Now the old man was frozen in place, because of what he saw. His heart pounded against his ribs like he had run the marathon, and his temples were slick with sweat. His pants were wet too, wet with alcoholic piss. He had to get out of there, get up, open the door, get into the car, turn on the ignition and just drive his scared ass away from this site as fast as possible. That's what he wanted to do; that's what he needed to do. Hell, that's what he had to do!
But he never made it.
The next day, the police found his body lying over the front seat of his car, his head hanging over the edge of his open window. The reports also said that his mouth was open, the rigor mortis freezing the look of fright on his face in every wrinkle, as if he was screaming until he died.
Nobody knew what happened to either of them.
To be continued...
A/N: Again, I repeat. Please review; help a newbie out! The power of the review gods compels you! LOL
(1) Shang Dynasty: 2nd family who ruled the northeastern regions, known as Inner China, in the Yellow River valley (1600-1046 BC).
(2) Oracle Bones: Pieces of bone or turtle plastron (underside) bearing the answers to divination, chiefly during the late Shang Dynasty.
(3) Xia Dynasty: 1st family of rulers of the northeastern regions, known as Inner China, in the Yellow River valley (2205-1766 BC).
(4) The Five Emperors: Mythological emperors of ancient China (3500 BC to 2000 BC).
(5) Cangjie: A historian, diplomat & inventor (2650 BC).
(6) Yellow Emperor: One of the Five Emperors, the founder of China (2696–2598 BC).
(7) Battle of Zhuolu: Battle between the Yellow Emperor & the Yan Emperor (~2500 BC).
(8) Yan Emperor: One of the Five Emperors (~2500 BC).
(9) Battle of Banquan: Battle between the Yellow Emperor & Chi You (~2500 BC).
(10) Chi You: Tribal ruler of the nine Li tribes (~2500 BC).