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Chapter 2 Awakening
There was a ca.s.sia flower tree in the yard of the orphanage. Every year when the flowers bloomed, the scent traveled for miles. Since Gongping was old enough to sneak homemade ca.s.sia flower wine made by Director Gong, he dreamt he'd get to leisurely have a drink under the tree. Today, he got his wish.
All the furniture under the tree was made of bamboo and wood, and most of the utensils holding the appetizers and snacks were made of natural materials, too, since it was said the scent of ca.s.sia flower didn't mix with the smell of metal. Gongping was eating and drinking with his friend from the academy, and nearby a young man was working as a waiter.
His friend took another gulp. “It's a heavenly life; too bad it won't be for long.”
Gongping smiled. “It's meant to happen. “
A fog started to appear, things became fuzzy, and Gongping woke up in a haze of fragmented conversation and laughter. What the . . . ? The drinking and eating was all a dream. He didn't know it had been ten years on Earth while he dreamt.
He was in an unfamiliar room and bed. The light was dim, as there were no windows. The only light source came from an energy-saving bulb on the ceiling. The air wasn't great, either, as it was damp. When he realized he had been dreaming, he mocked himself for dreaming of ca.s.sia flowers in such a fancy place.
He rubbed his eyes and looked around again; things stayed the same. He slapped his thigh; it stung. Reality hurt. The ca.s.sia flowers weren't real, though they had felt so true to him.
He got up from the bed with effort, as he needed a bathroom, but this shabby room didn't seem like it would have one. He opened the curtains separating the room and saw the other half of the room.
The other side was an exact clone of his half, with a single bed and a used nightstand. The only thing remarkable was a couple pairs of women's underwear drying on a wire strung across the bed.
Gongping grimaced. “Am I living with a woman?”
After he had began working after graduating from the police academy, quite a few people had tried to set him up on dates. As time pa.s.sed, his stock fell in value, and fewer people wanted to play matchmaker. He stayed single until the day he was struck by lightning.
”What about the woman living with me?” he asked to himself, still looking for a bathroom, to no avail. He did find something useful—his police uniform.
The uniform looked well maintained; it was clean and smooth. He put on the uniform and checked his looks in his female roommate's mirror; he felt happy.
There was no watch or clock in the room. He didn't know when it was, so he just ventured outside.
So, he lived in the bas.e.m.e.nt of a building. From what he remembered, only new migrant workers in the city lived like this, so he wasn't doing too well financially after the lightning strike.
He tried to guess his whereabouts in the strange neighborhood. At least it was daylight, and directions were easy to guess.
Walking around in this familiar yet unfamiliar city, he could tell he had slept for a while, since the city had undergone enormous changes. Gongping decided to go to the police station to see if he still had a job in the file room.
Having made a goal, he felt more relaxed, but the call of nature also became more urgent. He was about to try a paid bathroom when he felt his empty pockets. Luckily, there was hope. He spotted a Red Cross sign. He rushed over.
He found a free bathroom in the hospital and relieved himself. He felt ounces lighter when he left. (On the evening news: All paid bathrooms are now free bathrooms paid with government subsidies in order to support city construction.)
When he was in the hospital lobby, he checked the time and was shocked. He had slept for ten years. He felt a little dizzy and weak in the legs. Finding a bench, he sat down to recover.
“I slept for ten years?” He couldn't believe it. He looked at the wall clock in the hospital again. He noticed the computers at the payment windows were a lot different; the monitors were all thin screens now. That would have been a luxury in his day. Remembering all the other changes he'd seen on the streets, he began to accept the fact that he had slept a long time.
Gongping had been a quiet and almost weak guy before, but he was intelligent and rational. He couldn't understand why his muscles weren't weak. Most bedridden people had some muscle-atrophy from lack of use, but not him. If anything, he felt stronger.
After resting at the hospital, he grew hungry. The hospital had free bathrooms but no free lunch, so he couldn't stay here forever.
He knew he had better head to the police station. He could go back to where he lived, but he didn't have a key, and even if he waited for the woman he lived with, it'd be awkward to see her without understanding their relationship.
He just hoped that, after ten years, the police station was still in the same place. Maybe he could even borrow a little money from his old friends. But before his long nap, the city had been undergoing major construction, so if the place had moved, it wouldn't be a surprise.
He had no money for any rides, so he began to walk. More problems. He could figure out general directions, but not his exact location in the city. He found a bus stop to study the city map, as all bus stops had detailed maps.
As he was engrossed in reading the map, a police motorcycle with sirens pulled over next to him.
”Officer, please show your ID.” The female police officer got off her motorbike and saluted him, though her tone was rather mocking.
He felt his shirt pocket out of habit. He had done this twice now and had no money last time either, nor did he have IDs. He also realized his uniform was very different from what the female cop wore.
“Is there a new uniform?” he mused. He had heard of possible uniform changes before the lightning strike, but it hadn't happened when he was alive, so it must have been updated since then.
He couldn't help but look at the female cop again. The uniform was new and so was the police emblem; also different was the word "Inspector" on her right arm.
The woman was pet.i.te. He could see she had shapely collarbones and a trim waist, and her face was pretty, too.
The cop, seeing Gongping was not only not producing identification but looking her up and down, was not happy. She whipped out her handcuffs, locking him to the metal beam at the bus stop in one smooth move.