Lone Mountain

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Lone Mountain A Death in Chunfen
Cheerful Child
Hesitant Child
Post Office Worker
Yumen Suburbs
Desert Mountain
Cold Forest
RI Room
Moushan Lot
Yumen Desert
A documentarian with terminal Oripathy takes up his camera and heads for a land on which he has never set foot before.
<Background black>
[A recording starts.]
Infection Diary:
Went to the hospital today. Finally got closure. It's better to know that there
are rocks in my body than worry about whether they're there or not.
I've been a hospital regular since I was little. Maybe that's why I didn't feel much when the doctor gave his prognosis.
What's the meaning of life? It's a question that countless films and books have explored, and a question that means nothing to me anymore.
In the days I have left, I want to make something that truly belongs to me.
I've often wondered if our vision has been limited by the environment we can see, and the land portrayed on the television screen, without us realizing it.
We've gotten used to the sight of imposing skyscrapers and nights illuminated by neon glow, but we've forgotten how the vast nomadic cities are only a small part of this great land.
How small is man in all this?
My farewell will be a documentary.
I will leave familiar waters and go as far as I can, to see sights I've never seen before. Who lives in the furthest corners of the world, and what kind of lives do they lead?
Filming a documentary by myself won't be easy. The thought of carrying so much equipment across such distances is daunting enough on its own.
But what have I got to lose? Maybe I get an Oripathy attack halfway, and everything's over right then and there.
My time is better spent thinking of a title for the work.
<Background 1>
[A Forte Messenger is talking with a post office worker.]
Messenger Three hundred thirty-seven letters and twenty-five packages, correct?
Post Office Worker Correct, but... are you sure you can carry all that?
Messenger Sure. I'm used to it.
Two week trip, with a sidetrack to a town in the west for an urgent delivery.
Post Office Worker Things are always busy at the start of a new year. Sorry about the workload.
Messenger Don't worry, it comes with the territory.
Post Office Worker Oh, and...
Messenger Yeah? Go on.
Post Office Worker Well, I bought my family some new clothes and nutriments for the new year. I was hoping you might have the time, but...
Messenger Just hand over the goods.
Post Office Worker Oh, thank you so much, boss.
Messenger Oh, cut it out, I'm not your boss. You're older than me, aren't you?
[The worker drops a bag in front of the Messenger.]
Post Office Worker Mmph!
Messenger Er... how many pieces is it?
Post Office Worker That's why I wasn't sure I should say...
I mean, if it's too much...
Messenger Just load them up. A few pieces more or less won't make a difference.
Post Office Worker Thanks!
Oh, and send my love to my folks, if you see them. Tell them I'll definitely be back for the next new year.
Messenger Gotcha.
Messenger I'd better get going.
<Background fades out and in>
Er... excuse me? Can I have a moment of your time?
Messenger Who? Me?
Are you the local Messenger?
Messenger Guess so... I handle all the letters and parcels in these mountains.
And who might you be?
Oh, I'm a director. I'm filming a documentary about this region.
Can I travel with you for a while? And, with your permission, film you as well...?
Messenger ......
I-I'm telling the truth!
It's just that I lost my ID on my way here from the last village, and I don't have anything else on me to prove my identity.
Look! All I have in my bag is filming equipment.
Messenger Did you say "documentary?"
Well, a documentary is...
Messenger I know what a documentary is. But why me?
I want to record the lives of the people who live in these mountains, but I don't know the area. As a Messenger, I'm sure you...
Messenger Alright, I get it.
I'll stay out of your way, I promise!
I'm afraid I can't compensate you, but I would be happy to put your name at the top of the credits...
Messenger That's not what I'm worried about.
Well... alright...
I'm not sure what you're trying to film...
But as long as you can keep up...
<Background black>
I left a simple farewell letter to my parents and a few close friends, asking them to forgive me for leaving without saying goodbye. I've never been good with words, and time is short.
My parents always wanted to keep me sheltered. I understand their worries, but I also have my reasons.
I hope they'll understand when they watch the film.
I felt joy and excitement as I never had before when, for the first time, my feet touched earth that was real, not man-made.
I felt as though I saw more in the span of a few months than I had in all the decades prior.
I saw starry skies clear and bright, saw the soil turned over by Catastrophe, saw Chidao builders busy at work in the barrenlands, saw Catastrophe Messengers tirelessly traveling from one place to another.
I traversed uninhabited deserts, crossed silent glaciers, and passed by peaceful, verdant villages. They invited me to stay for the Yanese New Year's Eve and to share in a cup of mijiu that they made themselves.
In fact, I've had enough of writing stories that cater to the audience, all for a few more tickets sold at the box office, a few guffaws or tears, then forgotten forever.
Art is not something to be consumed once and thrown away. It should have some sort of lasting meaning, some sort of weight.
Why not capture the authentic lives of the people, rather than try to make faux imitations of them?
Every frame my camera captures is meaningful.
I want to see with my own eyes distant lands and the people who live there.
Now, in my last days, I feel more alive than ever.
Ironically, it's only made me more afraid of the end.
<Background 2>
The Messenger's day begins before sunrise, at the hour when starlight begins to give way to dawn.
In remote regions like this, the delivery of parcels, letters, even simple messages, requires no ordinary effort.
Messengers embark on long journeys into the wilds, facing a multitude of risks and challenges. This Messenger, for instance, walks a dozen li every day—
Messenger Dozens of li.
A dozen li won't even get me over a single peak.
Sorry, my mistake. I'll redo the narration...
[The documentarian takes a deep breath.]
Messenger You still good? Need help with your backpack?
I-I can handle it...
Messenger We only reached one village today. That's a lot slower than normal.
I'm sorry... I'll do my best to keep up.
Messenger Just take it easy.
Let's take a break. It would only be more trouble if you collapsed. You're not exactly an athlete, by the looks of it.
[The Messenger gave water to the documentarian.]
Messenger Have some water.
And tie this bandage around your ankle, or by tomorrow it'll be swollen, and you can't even walk.
T-Thank you...
Sorry about this... I didn't mean to be a burden.
Messenger Hah. Not like I ever expected a city boy to keep up with me.
What exactly have you been filming, anyway?
Just the scenes and people along the way...
Messenger I've seen movies too, seen the glamorous scenes, handsome actors, and beautiful actresses...
Is there a reason you're filming bare mountains like these?
Of course there is!
True beauty lies in that which is authentic. Glamorous, whitewashed scenes are no more than a deception.
There's meaning in filming that which no one has ever seen and that which has become lost to the passage of time, so that more people can see them.
Messenger Hm...
Since we're taking a break, may I interview you?
Messenger Inter... view?
Just asking some questions. You don't have to answer, if you don't want to.
Messenger I guess... do I talk into the camera?
Have you always lived in these mountains?
Messenger I left for a few years to go to school, and came back after graduating.
Could you talk about this place from your own perspective?
Messenger Er... talk about it?
[The Messenger thinks for a while before start talking,]
Messenger It's just what you're looking at... ordinary mountains, far away from civilization. Not a lot of people here, and even fewer visitors.
Nothing's really changed as far as I can remember... other than the building of the Chidao.
How do the people here make a living?
Messenger Most years, we grow enough to feed ourselves, and trade any surplus we have for other things we need.
The climate may be dry, but it's just right for certain fruits.
A while back, I was thinking whether there was a way to sell the fruit grown in the village to the cities.
But the cost of transportation was too high, so nothing came of it.
A lot of the villages look pretty empty.
Messenger People had been moving to the nomadic cities for years. The young people went first. Now, even the children and elderly are following.
Not much has changed here, but the cities expand quickly. There are more jobs there.
I'm the only one left in the village where I grew up.
They went to the cities? Why did you stay here?
Messenger I'm Infected, after all.
Messenger Maybe I could have gone if I really wanted to, but I took a look at myself in the mirror, and traversing these mountains is what I do best.
Rather than start from scratch in an unfamiliar place, I would rather do what I can, especially if this helps other people.
Plus, who would deliver the mail if I left?
Isn't it tough?
Have you ever thought it was unfair?
Messenger Tough?
Is there anything that isn't tough? I'm more comfortable doing what I'm good at, what I'm familiar with.
As far as fair or unfair... who's to judge that sort of stuff? I would rather just do my job.
Or did you think that life outside the cities was hell?
Things might be monotonous here, but it's not so bad that we have to beg for sympathy.
There's nothing wrong with working hard and making a simple, grounded living.
I guess you're right...
But how could there be change, if things continue like this?
Messenger Change?
Things are changing every day.
Today's house is a little more solid than yesterday, and today's crops grow a little taller.
That's not the kind of change I'm talking about!
I'm talking about change on a larger scale, on a structural level...
People shouldn't be limited by what they were born into... they should have equal access to resources and opportunities no matter where they live.
Messenger Sure, that's a nice thought to have... but you've got to start with solid, hard work, after all.
[The Messenger asks the documentarian,]
Messenger Let's give this a rest, we've gone way off topic.
Alright, we can about something else. What about yourself?
Messenger Myself? What is there to talk about it?
As a Messenger, what sort of regrets do you have? What are your hopes of the future? What's been the most unforgettable thing in your career?
Messenger Unforgettable thing...?
I'll tell you, but only if you turn off the camera.
[The documentarian turns off the camera.]
<Background fades out and in>
Messenger There was one time when I was hurrying through the mountains overnight to make an urgent delivery.
It was raining, and the dirt on the slopes started to come lose. Rocks came rolling down the slope...
Was your infection—
Messenger No, no.
I saw a big rock that was about to fall onto the parcels. I don't know what I was thinking in the heat of the moment, so I tried to knock it away with my horns...
Messenger That's how I broke my left horn.
Messenger Are you laughing?
S-Sorry, I didn't mean to—
Messenger Whatever. Still better than the long look on your face you've been having.
I find it funny too. I still carry the broken horn with me, to remind myself not to rush on rainy nights.
And maybe I could find a doctor to put it back, if I get the chance.
I've done a lot of dumb things and seen a lot of interesting sights on my deliveries.
But I'm usually by myself, and there's no one to tell my stories to.
Well, here's your chance. Any other stories you care to tell?
And have you ever thought that you're not really by yourself when you're delivering?
"When you look back at your life, what do you feel?"
I've asked many people the same question, and the answers are often similar.
All the ups and downs of life, summarized in a few words.
The Messenger talked about life in the mountains, her lost home, her infection, as though she was talking about going out for a walk after dinner.
But what kind of pain, suffering and frustrations lie behind her dispassionate words? What helplessness does she feel, of which even she is not aware?
We are all equally helpless, before the great maw of "reality".
How would I answer the question myself?
What more can I record with my camera, and what more can I do, before the end comes?
What would I leave behind?
<Background 3>
[At a forest...]
Messenger We'll camp in this forest today.
Do you always camp outside like this when you're out delivering?
Messenger I spend the night in villages whenever I can, but sometimes they're too far away to make it before sundown.
Bad luck to have to camp outside on your first trip to the mountains.
But I'm surprised you've made it this far. I thought you would give up a long time ago.
Haha... I might have done that in the past, but there are reasons why I have to keep going this time.
The job of a Messenger is harder than I thought.
Messenger You get used to it, after a while.
I guess doing this once is plenty for you.
But there are many who will remained trapped here, far away from civilization, after I'm gone...
I'm hoping there will come a day when people don't have to live like this anymore.
Messenger Like this?
Yes. Maybe bringing attention to how things are here can help bring about change.
Messenger I don't understand why you keep talking about changing this place.
Like a few words would change anything.
All I can do is raise awareness.
But it's worth trying, so we can change this backwater...
Messenger Enough.
Messenger I don't get what you're going for with this so-called documentary.
You said you wanted to learn about the people's lives, but what have you actually learned?
You don't know how the people farm, what they do as the seasons change, how they drill wells in the wild. You don't even know the price of a pound of grain.
You don't know anything.
I may not know much, but I've seen things here with my own eyes.
Didn't you say you wanted to see change?
Messenger Yes, life here is hard, much poorer than in the cities.
But the people here do their best to make a living in their own way.
For someone like you who doesn't actually know the people here, who are you to judge our lives and look down on us? What gives you the right to talk about "change?"
Messenger You've got a lot of grand talk about "compassion," but in the end, you're just looking down on us, pitying us.
You don't need me to guide you, and I'm not gonna help you with your documentary anymore. Zai jian.[note 1]
[The Messenger walks away.]
Sorry, that's not what I meant!
Messenger Leave me alone!
<Background 4>
[Click finishes repairing the camera for the Messenger, now known as Wind Chimes.]
Click I've done what I could to fix the camera. Check it out. Is the data in there still good?
Wind Chimes Yes, thanks.
Click It's the newest model, released last year. I wanted one too, but couldn't bring myself to spend half-a-year's income.
How did it get so damaged, though? Did its old owner throw it or something?
Wind Chimes No, nothing like that...
Click So what's in it?
Wind Chimes ......
Some scenery... I guess...
[Mulberry enters the room.]
Mulberry Your test results are in, Wind Chimes.
Wind Chimes Thanks.
Mulberry I can give you the room, if you want to look at them now—
[Mulberry gave Wind Chimes her medical test results, which she takes and reads.]
Wind Chimes Hey, these aren't too bad. You had me worried there for a second.
Mulberry I'm not exactly a doctor, but those aren't great numbers...
Remember to wear proper protective equipment on your deliveries.
Wind Chimes Will do, thanks.
I appreciate you telling me about Rhodes Island... and about the village.
Thank you for everything.
Mulberry I thought it was just a natural disaster when I went there... I never could've imagined there was such a story behind it.
I just wonder, if I had showed up a little earlier...
Wind Chimes Don't say that. No point in dwelling on it.
Everyone is helpless in the face of these things.
The boy who died in the mudslide...
Mulberry I'm sorry... I contacted Chun-qian HQ asked for recent reports of missing persons, we haven't had a match yet.
Wind Chimes I see...
Mulberry There's just so little information. No name, no ID, no idea where he came from.
Do you have any more information about the video? Maybe it could provide a clue.
Wind Chimes He... he was Infected.
Other than that...
Mulberry Well, that doesn't really...
Wind Chimes Don't worry, I'll keep looking.
I'm sure he left something behind on his journey.
You came so far and met so many people. Someone like you must have left some trace.
Somewhere, amongst all the sights you saw, there will be word about you.
Mulberry Oh, by the way, I'm going to Moushan one of these days.
I want to check on the rebuilding of the disaster fortifications there.
Wind Chimes Sure, let's go together.
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 5>
Noisy Crowd Hey! Any letters for me?
Stop pushing! I see my letter!
Messenger No need to rush, folks. Get in line, one at a time...
See there, Wang? Letter for you! Now stop crying.
Good news about your son's university application, Zhang? I see you grinning from ear to ear. Congrats.
I've never seen faces like that.
People gather around the Messenger, waiting for news carried on a single piece of paper, news from their loved ones beyond the mountains.
On everyone's faces is sincere expectation, sincere emotion. I share in their feelings through the camera lens.
Their expectations are humble, but they are not lacking in emotions.
Perhaps the lives of people are not so different after all. All the ups and downs of life, summarized in a few words.
Life and death, joy and sorrow, meeting and parting.
Messenger What are you filming?
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 5>
Two months have passed, and the village looks very different.
It is the idle season for farming, but the villagers are as busy as ever. A few more wells have popped up, and the villagers gather around the fields to study newly-installed irrigation equipment.
A drop of dew falls on her face. She looks up to see that a few flowers have bloomed on the old pagoda tree at the village entrance, swaying with the warm summer breeze.
She remembers something that someone said to her once.
"When you hurry through the night, do you forget to look up at the stars above or down to see the flowers blooming in the cracks of the path?"
Wind Chimes picks up the camera.
Cheerful Child Ready? I'm gonna press it!
Hesitant Child Are you sure it won't blow up?
Cheerful Child Three, two—
It's moving!
Wind Chimes What's this?
Cheerful Child A tractor we made out of tools abandoned by the Chidao builders! We learned how to do it from the books!
Hesitant Child Quiet down! They'll yell at us if they find out.
Wind Chimes What did you build it for?
Cheerful Child To go to Lungmen!
We've always wanted to see the big city.
I hear there are huge shopping malls there, giant movie theaters, and pianos as big as the Elder's backyard!
Hesitant Child What's the point? We'll still have to come back...
So much going on in the village, drilling new wells, fixing the pipes, moving the Yishan Temple...
So many things to do since the Elder left, and no one knows where to start...
Cheerful Child You need to look higher and further! We'll be able to do what we want once we grow up.
You've been to the cities, right, lady Messenger?
Wind Chimes Hm...
It's good to see places you've never been before.
Let me take a photo for you.
Carry the photo with you, and you'll always be able to remember what home looks like, even when you're far away.
Cheerful Child Let's do it! Commemoration for our big adventure!
Over here, we'll sit on the tractor.
Wind Chimes Look at the camera and smile.
Three, two—
[The camera flashes.]
If your last wish is to finish the journey and the documentary, then I'll do all I can to help you fulfill it.
Maybe I finally understand why you do this. There are sights that I've never noticed, even in familiar places.
Villages disappear and people leave, but they leave behind traces that can be captured.
Thank you for telling me your stories and listening to mine.
I'm sorry I didn't get to know you better.
<Background 6>
The less-than-amicable parting with the interviewee is yet another unexpected challenge. But I have to keep going.
The argument made me reflect and realize that one cannot rely on books alone to learn about life. My understanding of "hardship" remains shallow.
Life is a journey with predetermined starting and ending points, a journey that one stumbles through, searching for a path.
The paths may differ, but we all fight against the tides of fate and struggle against the monsters of reality for the sake of the scenery we cling to.
These struggles are a source of hardship, yet they are also noble.
I may have had misfortune, but never misery. This realization has set my mind at ease.
I shall go forward and keep walking.
I should apologize to the Messenger, if I see her.
Maybe I'd better do it now.
Hello, Miss Messenger.
I don't have a pen or paper with me, so all I can do is record my apology this way.
I'm sorry for offending you.
I wanted to explain that I didn't mean to look down on anyone; I just wanted to do what I can, to do something meaningful, just like you.
I really respect your commitment and courage.
I haven't been able to live "authentically" like you do, but thanks to you, I'm a little closer to "authentic".
Once again, I apologize for offending you, and for my lack of understanding.
I hope you will see this apology, informal as it is, someday.
Yours sincerely—
[The man bumps to someone...]
??? Oof!
[...who looks familiar.]
Annoyed Youth Hey! Watch where you're going!
<Background 6>
Curious Youth You said this machine keeps anything you see? Forever?
Yes, it permanently records anything it captures.
Curious Youth Can you record me too?
Er, sure...
What do you want to say?
Proud Youth My name is Fang Xiaoshi! I'm going to be the greatest hero in all the lands!
Remember the name! You'll hear it again soon.
Alright, I will.
Proud Youth Anyway, I've gotta run. There's a great demon after me...
I'm off! Zai jian![note 1]
[The youth runs off.]
Zai jian.[note 1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hanzi: 再见, Pinyin: zàijiàn; "goodbye" in Mandarin