A Fiction
Vani Venkatesan

Chapter 1     The Weird City


It was the fast growing city that had become a brazen and appealing work of wonder. In thirty years, the city had risen from a small fishing and farming village to a metro center, a sprawling region that dominated the neighboring cities in Mainland China. Solemn and splendid administrative buildings and banks, hotels and shopping malls arose on the wide and cheerful streets, where farmers used to grow rice. For the past three decades, the city was venerable, a favorite place for young talents in China, glorified by the government, and visited by dreamers.

As they chatted and strolled down the broad sidewalk, they came to a busy cross-street, a crooked street crowded with people purchasing potatoes, carrots and leafy greens where flies hang about. Varshi almost ran into a little beggar, who was apparently begging money from her. He appeared pitiful, muttering some words she could not understand.
Varshi turned on her Language Translator.
``A heart, good lady, a kind heart, beautiful lady, a good deed for your life in heaven!" The kids called piteously at Joyce.
``Are you sure you want to follow us?" Joyce spoke shrilly with a taut expression. ``Do you know who we are and what road we are traveling?"
An older kid stepped forward, speaking with a little timidity: ``Very beautiful and kind lady, you are the boss, who has a good heart. You are on the road to big fortune, prosperity and great honor because of your virtues!" Obviously, someone had coached him to say so.
Joyce looked more solemn. ``Nonsense! We are loyal dedicated party members! We are traveling on the correct, bright, gorgeous and happy path of socialism," Joyce said, raising her voice. ``Do you still want to follow us?"
The little beggars were all confused and scared. They looked at each other, shook their heads and ran away.

Joyce had read her mind.
``They are debt collectors representing a manufacturer, which built the circuit boards of some smart watches for us....
The polite and friendly debate became a bitter strife when he lost patience, making a vehement argument: `Look, even our National Food Minister, in response to critics of widespread food poisoning, proudly declared that our country's food is 99% safe. Our capacitors is only 0.2% defective and they won't even poison anyone. It is nothing of a big deal!' I shot back: `If you poison 1% Chinese inside China and have good connections, you won't have any trouble, but if you poison 0.2% American dogs, not to mention humans, you would cause an uproar regardless of who you are.'
His eyes narrowed, and he was irritated. He pounded the table. `Come on! Don't make any incendiary denunciation of our country. In Rome, do as Romans do,' he bawled. `You are inside China, so you have to play according to our rules.' ............."
``Name the current Chinese President, " Raditya asked seriously.
``She .. Sin..no,..Jean.. Pink!" said Varshi.
``Yes, Xi is the current President," Raditya said, nodding. ``Name Mr. Xi's predecessor."
``Who was the president before She?" Varshi said to herself, trying to recall the name.
``Yes, Hu was the President. Good!" Raditya said. ``Now name the Prime Minister consoling the big Sichuan Earthquake victims."
``When did [the earthquake happen?] " Varshi tried to ask.
``Yes, Wen did! Very Good!" Raditya interrupted before she finished her sentence.
``Which is the largest communication hardware company we have?" He asked another question.
``Who are we?" Varshi asked to clarify the question.
``Yes, Hu-a-wei is our lagest company that built communication devices, except that Huawei is pronounced as Wa-wai, so I need to ask you one more question."
She looked down into a well with unfathomable depth, a tunnel to the inferno submerged in darkness, where came a low-pitched beat, a rolling Dong originated from depths far below. In the darkness, dong, dong it rolled, like the steady cadence of a drum, along with faint groans of torment from the dark world down below. At the bottom of the lit zone, there emerged a trembling hand, protruding from darkness to the faintly lit area, opening and closing its fingers, as if bestowing for help. She heard the beat dong as the hand slapped on the well's wall. It groped upon the wall and gripped a stone, pulling its body up. A human-shaped creature appeared. Dong, dong it rolled as the creature climbed and whispered mournfully: ``no..more..torture,..no..more..torture.." As the fluttering fugitive got near the top of the well, it whispered with a trembling voice, ``Help me! Help me!" and protruded a hand to grab her.
After the arrangement, the boy bowed and stared at her, his eyes glistening and dreamy, showing sincerity and gratitude along with something questing and scenting. Varshi touched his head. A strange emotion passed through her, an intimation of many links and fate. She felt poised both as a passenger and a participant in this alien land, having a rendevous with destiny in this club.
Aikaterina did not heed. ``Do you know the difference in lying between China and America?"
Amazed by her question, Varshi shook her head. ``No!"
``In America, the government and the elite lie but no one knows they lie. Americans worship liars as genius, innovators, pioneers and inventors, not unlike North Koreans worshiping leaders. In China, everyone lies but everyone knows everyone lies. They cheat one another and expect to be cheated themselves. Every day is a day of April Fool. For instance, if you put 50% down to apply for a mortgage and you are not too old, you can make up your career and any information as needed, and get approved instantly. The banker knows that you lie and you know that the banker knows you lie," Aikaterina said, straining her great eyebrows.
Gong said, his voice flat, ``...... Peng, I advice you to draw off and let her pay the twenty thousand. If you persist on representing her and not paying, you will raise up a swarm of enemies who will never leave you alone until you find this city too hot and humid to stay."
Peng broke into a gentle chuckle. ``No, to be fair and justifiable, she must pay the full amount, forty thousand!" he said assertively.
Varshi frowned. No, stupid! I don't want to pay even one dime! She yelled in her mind.
``You are fair and righteous!" Gong said, still in his flat tone, not showing any joy.


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