China Ghost

China Ghost

By Samantha Lee Shelton

The harsh wind blew through the window from the eastern shores of the lake. Andrea stood to close the window against the rain. A gush of moist air held her to her seat. My form stood before her.

I spoke, "Greetings dear friend. I am a ghost living in secrecy among you. I was one of the most beautiful of women during the Qing dynasty, now the corpse lies in the grave under your rice field." I stood with spite, as a moon silhouetted by the night. I cast a glance at the sleeping infant in the cradle, "Be grateful that this one is a boy."

I was intrigued by the moving pictures of television and another piece of modern technology, a dishwasher. What a paradise. Except I am a ghost without revenge. I bought this restlessness with my life. A suicide forever roaming the Earth, alone, isolated, and alienated.

The young mother before me was in a desperate state of confusion. All mortals are frightened of spirits. So I spoke, "But times have changed, you could not possibly comprehend what a women endured in my lifetime." My ice cold fingers stroked the television screen.

Andrea's eyes followed me as I roamed around the room. Then she stated, "What is it you want from us? We are not a rich family, yet I will give all that you ask if you let us be." Her hands trembled at her sides.

I did not want to frighten, I was merely curious about the nature and evolution of womanhood. I stated quietly, "I only wish to tell you my tale if you will listen . . . . . . . .then I will leave as you desire . . . . . I will not harm you or your family, my anger has been spent centuries ago."

Andrea nodded in reply. She was more focused now, perhaps used to me. Chang Kuo Lau of the Eight Immortals chased off golden unicorns on his flying donkey, while I sought out the true and innocent. He must have blessed this family personally. I think he must be resting in his cave; the wind has stopped blowing.

So I began to tell the story as told to many others before. I sat in a chair and folded my arms over each other and began the soliloquy, "I was born during the Qing dynasty's most splendid reign. Under Qianlong, China had its greatest expansion. Millions of miles of new land to settle and farm. I was from a small or what we called a conjugal family. My two elder brothers were unwed, and spent the day out in the fields planting rice." I paused. She, leaned towards my countenance and so I continued.

"I was female and no blessing to my parents. I resented the attention and caring affection that my siblings received. But I grew to understand that I was merely a worthless girl. I considered myself lucky that I was not put to death at birth by my parents who could ill afford a female child. I if ailed, I never saw the doctor. It was as if they wished me dead." I have hated them, thinking that they had gotten what they wished for in the end. I am dead, forever am I the walking dead, consisting of nothing but remnants of a past civilization and culture that was uprooted years ago. Walking along pathways in darkness, instilling fear to all I meet. Andrea was calm and silent, and but I had just begun.

"My mother was unyieldingly cruel. My brothers and father would be working out in the fields when she would beat me. If I dropped what I was preparing in the kitchen, she got so hot and angry that she just grabbed and struck me with whatever she could get a hold of. Sometimes it wasn't so bad, yet at other times I swallowed my own blood from the cut and was bruised for days."

Andrea's jaw dropped and she looked over at her precious child. How could anyone lay a harmful hand on such a perfect miracle of life? Even more cruel, how could a mother strike her own child? I granted her a nightmare to seep through the marrow of her shadowy bones.

I sighed at the remembrance, "the beatings were a blessing when compared to the torment that I would latter endure as my feet were bound. Crippled for life, my feet were compressed into dainty tiny infant-like feet. My toes were forced down and under. Men adored my feet, almost mesmerized by the tiny slippers. I suffered agonies of pain as my blood from my shriveling feet soaked the bandages. By the end of it all, my feet were a mere three inches from the heel to the toe. After, I was restricted to the house due to my crippling golden lotus."

I glanced down at Andrea's feet and smiled. It was a faint smile, a tear or two away from a frown. She had normal feet and perfect arches. The kind that danced across the skies on cotton clouds. Andrea soothed and stroked the wedding band she wore upon her finger and then tenderly kissed it. True love, happiness, the world's view of the perfect fairy tale with no evil cruel stepmothers. I chuckled at the memory of mine; I escaped her tightening hands forever, but she didn't evade my raging soul. Like the rising sun that meets the knife and sharpens the blade only to use it in the evening shade of eternal life. I did my part, and now I will say my say, and go on with the comings of the day.

My wedding day, the most splendid day in a young girl's life, but not mine. Andrea's eyes met mine in the cold cold night of the warm candle light. Joy met rage, laughter met tears and lastly courage encompassed fear. Did I want to remember this caption on my life? I looked at the young girl before me. She nodded, and I gave her my memories.

"I met my husband on our marriage night. I was young and naive. I was only sixteen. For what did children have to do with matters concerning the welfare of the family? I tell you, I had none. My marriage satisfied our family's needs. We were married, and I uprooted all I loved for his family, their ways, and customs. I did not love him." A tear, in all it's singularity, glided down my cheek, wishing to join the rain and become a part of the bleeding stain out in the fields and the main. "Nights I cried my heart to sleep, the loneliness was too much to bear."

My tear dried unfallen, "He and I remained distant for the year. I spent most of my time with my new stepmother in the kitchen. She and I grew very close, yet I never blossomed with her grandson. I was never good enough. All was well for a short and brief while. Until a fierce storm thundered over our lands and a rift opened up between us. One so natural and uncontrollable as a flooding canyon into a valley; cascading, cascading." I remembered drowning in a sea of blood from the storm's harsh winter flood and my crippled feet were stuck in the cold bitter mud. And my stepmother was a sea dragon of that raging red river.

"I began to think that my mother was a blessing. For I was a stranger to this family and I had no appeal. I found my life suddenly intolerable. I was alone and had no purpose to serve of my own. I couldn't run away and divorce was unthinkable. It would only bring embarrassment to my family. I could prostitute or end all of my pain and suffering in a flashing minute. Suicide was my most promising solution. Suicide would be my terrifying revenge on my stepmother and the family. She would know that a ghost lied in the shadows to hurt her at every pass. My parents would sue my husband's family for mistreatment. The thought of her torture and financial ruin delighted me. I took my own life the night they had guests over, to ensure the neighbors talked of it. And what did I know about hell?

"My soul was sent to the ninth hell, the most feared hell, ruled by Tu-shih Wang. For the pain and suffering that my soul endured, I cannot remember or recall. " I looked into Andrea's bewildered eyes one last time and then I passed through the wall to the outside world.

Only a passerby, these modern families do not protect themselves, allowing ghosts to enter their homes at ease. I left the young mother to consider my tale alone. I kicked up the upside down bowls of spent ghosts offerings. The wind rustled the leaves from under the bowls, lifted them, and uncovered grave sites for the undead. Here everyone dies. No one remembers the path to immortality. It seems as if they have accepted the hand of death upon their shoulder. Farewell my young friend, I hope the gates of hell are more forgiving to you than I. I am looking forward to the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. Even I can get lonely. So I wandered through the darkness, with no care to whom I came upon next to torture and torment if my soul desired.

Copyright 1997 by Samantha Lee Shelton

About the Author:

Samantha Lee Shelton is currently a computer science student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. A native of Myrtle Creek Oregon, she is an admirer of the Pacific rain forest and the white water rapids of the South Umqua River. In her quest for knowledge, she became inspired by the poetic works of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Shelton's love for the Victorian era is represented by her style and characteristic of its flow. She is pursuing a commission in the United States Air Force, station manager of WOUI 88.9 fm, a hopeful science fiction writer, and a poet.

You can E-Mail Samantha at:

Aphelion Letter Column A place for your opinions.

Return to the Aphelion main page.