A Fiction
Vani Venkatesan

John Xi, a Chinese national badminton player, struck and wounded two policemen who intruded into his girlfriend's home. Fearing for the injustice the system might impose on him, he had to run. In the flight, he met a mysterious fugitive, who deeply involved in the corruption charges of some high-ranked officials.
If you feel that the story does not make sense, it is because it resembles the reality too closely.

Chapter 1

Canton Open

September, 2006.
    It was 7 am. The stadium was empty as hell except for a lone young man, cut and fit, standing straight and motionless at the center court. John Xi, arrogant, stubborn and bad-tempered, never saying thanks to the party and leaders, was a member of the national badminton team but he had no friends here. No coach, no leader, and no player liked him. Many of his teammates harbored deep resentment against him.
    Life is transitory!
    John had long given up communism, a paradigm invented by a German and a Russian a hundred years ago. As he meditated upon the teaching of Buddha, he pulled 6 shuttlecocks out of a cylindrical paper box, laying them down next to his racket on a bench. He slowly descended on the floor, sitting down, legs crossed and folded. He inhaled and exhaled, his rock-solid trunk expanding and contracting. He closed his eyes and bound his hands in a praying pose in front of his chest, trying to subdue the turmoil in his soul and to experience the void.
    All living things die. Wealth and fame are never long-lasted, gorgeous one moment, gone the next. John had learned.
    The bench, the racket, the shuttlecocks and the high ceiling glass-roof of the stadium here in Guangzhou, China, where the 2006 Canton Badminton Open was hosted, vanished from his mind as they did from his closed eyes. The score boards, the nets, and the empty seats no longer appeared, nor did the empire's chair and the TVs. The soft sunlight filtered through the translucent glass roof had warmed the hall and gave him a sense of harmony and peacefulness except that the feeling was transient. From time to time, he yearned for calmness and freedom. But the harder he yearned the more turbulent his mind would become.

    John shook his head fuming and fretting indignantly. The world is sick. Life is pain. Rage, anguish, and the sense of loss and insult enveloped him. With each rejection everything collapsed around him and he stood impoverished amid ruins. But he had to stir and move on. Now above all else, he had to conquer his anguish soul.
    He relaxed every inch of his muscles, meditating upon every variation of his strokes. Slowly and hesitantly, he looked up, staring at the roof, the gorgeous high ceiling with arch transom windows. As the sun rose, he saw flecks of light move slowly away and new ones came into being. Then they gradually dissolved into the emptiness. The noise faded away. The hall became silent. The bean-curd odor no longer annoyed him, nor did the honks from the streets all around. He began to lose connection with the world around him. Everything, losing or winning, frightening or engaging became superficial and had no concern to him. Only the ceiling, the shuttlecock and the racket existed in his mind.
    John finally succeeded in his meditation.

    Half lost in thought, an image slowly crept into his mind and gradually occupied him.
    The face of Pearl Lee, a lovely and delicate girl, whom he met in an evening nearly two years ago on a trip to the countryside, infiltrated his mind and seemed to grip his heart tightly even as a feeling of loss and sadness filled him. In that evening, a gang of thugs surrounded her, yelling at her rudely. A boy hurled a stone at her and shouted insulting words. John saved her from further attack and escorted her home. Next day she called, informing him that she had moved, but she never revealed why the thugs tried to hurt her.

    The match started with Kyle serving first. Opening with his typical trademark serve, Kyle pushed the shuttlecock half-high, flying over John's head toward his backhand side.
    John abruptly stepped backward, swinging his racket across his head, jumping into the air to smash the shuttlecock with astonishing power.
    The center of the racket head struck the shuttlecock hard. The impact was clearly heard, low-pitched yet booming. With all my heart, I want to end this war as fast as I can! He had determined.
    The shuttle flew back to the backhand side of Kyle, who flipped it back with his backhand.
    John tightened his right hand on the racket, jumped higher and struck even harder, tensing his feet on the ground.
    Again, Kyle flipped it back with backhand.
    The force of his strike made him slightly off balance. He again jumped and struck the shuttlecock with tremendous power, dispelling all his anger, hatred, and frustration to it.
    And again!
    The shuttlecock trajectory was formless but now it had acquired a form and a spirit. The trajectory was so solidly formed, vivid and clear, smooth and curved that the audience could easily follow it. The shuttlecock had absorbed all the emotions---anger and joy, hope and despair---from both players. The players, the rackets, the court and the shuttlecock were all tangled in this web of emotions, which according to Buddhism, created the existence of the universe. Both John and Kyle were trapped in this cycle of strike-and-flip, death-and-rebirth. The shuttlecock's destiny became their destiny. Its fate was their fate. Much as they wished to control the game and set the pace, and to be the one who would laugh when the point ended, it was no longer the players who decided on the destiny but its the shuttle trajectory that dictated the players' movement and stroke. They had no choice but continued to strike the shuttle back, hoping the other side would miss first.
    The war began to take shape. Sweat dripped down their foreheads.

    One more point. It will be over. John told himself. With his solid serve, he was confident that he could make it. He served an half-high overhead and started his usual attack.
    Pop! Pop! Pop!
    The shuttle dropped nearer and nearer to the net at Kyle's side. John knew that with a couple more strikes, he would win the game.
    Pop! John struck with maximum strength, directing the shuttle to Kyle's right side.
    Kyle could barely reach it. He struck it back with its forehand, mostly upward force, and the shuttle flew softly into the air, dropping down near the center of John's court.
    John smiled. The game is over! Good bye, Kyle!
    He jumped, smashing the shuttle with explosive power, and directing it toward Kyle's backhand side.
    No one in the world could return such a smash.
    Kyle had lost! Everyone thought.


A Shuttlecock

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