another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
Terminal Moraine by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | MAY 2017
by Mike Bozart
© 2017 Mike Bozart
Hua is a 24-year-old, single, Chinese female from the village of Jiayuguan, some 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) west of Beijing on the edge of the Gobi Desert. This Gansu province town has a tourist draw: a fortressed section of The Great Wall from the Han Dynasty period. When Hua was ten years younger, she would often see middle-aged Caucasian foreigners and wonder what their lives were like. She dreamed of visiting America and Western Europe. “Someday” she would murmur to herself.
Being in such a remote area, there was no worthwhile work to be found after high school. So, Hua did what most other non-college-bound young women did: She left for Shanghai to work in a factory; hers made Barbie^®^ dolls.
Hua worked 13 hours a day, six days a week. Sunday was her lone day off, but it was no day for relaxation, as she shared the small dormitory with five other females. Thus, Hua often spent her Sundays walking about the compound, thinking about her family 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles) away.
The work was repetitive to the point of being mind-numbing. She often wondered if automation would replace her. And, she often wondered if she might ever get a non-assembly job – like one in the nice overhead office suite.
As she stuck the smiling blonde-haired doll heads onto the molded torso’s neck pegs, she thought about Christmas Day (2015) overseas. Will this one lie under a tree in the United States? Will the lucky girl wonder where the doll came from? I doubt it.
With in-excess-of, per-piece bonuses, which were actually quite menial, Hua hoped to have her first
Y3,500 (yuan) month (about $507) after over 330 hours of finger-cramping, wrist-twisting toil.
On the second Sunday in December at 8:38 AM, she got a call from her mom. One of her friends, whose mom was also a friend of her mom, who had been working at the vast Confoxx facility in Shenzhen, had committed suicide by jumping from a fourth-floor window.
Hua, in a stunned state, ended the phone call. Why did she do it? Ling said that she enjoyed making iPads and iPhones. But, she did say that it could get stressful. Maybe they pushed her too hard. So sad.
For the remainder of the day, Hua was thoroughly bewildered. She wandered over to a small park and fed some breadcrumbs to the pigeons. A young woman who looked very much like Ling caught her eye. She’s not Ling. Ling is dead. ‘Ling, why didn’t you call me?’ Why didn’t I call her? I let too much time pass by. Can’t even remember the last time we spoke. Was it last September? Or, was it August? Time sure gets blurred in this workaday factory life. Hmmm … Could it have been over a boy? No, she wasn’t like that. I’m sure that it was work-related. I bet the pressure on the production line got to her. Ling was so sensitive. Maybe she just couldn’t cope. These factory jobs aren’t for everyone. Not sure if I can do it much longer. But, what else is there? Maybe Ling didn’t want to retreat back to Jiayuguan in shame. Well, now she’s gone. Just like that. What did her life mean? What does any factory worker’s life mean? We’re just robots with blood inside. And yet, we all have hope for a better life. Hope which quietly dissipates with each passing week. Need to stop with these negative thoughts. Time for some hot tea.
Once back in her cramped dormitory, Hua researched Confoxx suicides on a shared laptop computer. She saw that Ling’s suicide was hardly an isolated incident. Oh, my! Look at all of these poor people who have taken their lives. They should have just stayed in their villages. Looks like 2010 was the worst year. Ling should have taken a job somewhere else. Ah, but she was so proud to be making Apple products. It was like a badge of honor with her. Was almost jealous of her.
After the Christmas production rush was over, Hua took her once-a-year, unpaid, four-day vacation to see her folks back in Jiayuguan. The town looked about the same as last January. It was frigid (-15º Celsius; 5º Fahrenheit) with an inch (2.54 cm) of fine snow on the ground.
Hua had dinner with her parents and talked about Ling’s passing. Her mom told her that Ling’s parents were still distraught. When Hua’s dad asked her how it was going in Shanghai, she lied and told him that everything was fine.
The next morning after tea, Hua left the modest house to stroll down memory lane. She walked out of town towards the mountains to the northwest. It was a sunny, yet quite cold, winter day. Her thick coat barely kept her warm.
Soon she had arrived at the shallow, cobble-strewn, iced-over rill where she once played with the other kids. She walked upstream to what was a wall of boulders. Terminal moraine is what Liang called it. He said that it was left by a retreating glacier. Wonder if Liang ever became a geologist. I bet he did. Liang was so smart. He was going to make it. He’s probably now married to a pretty girl in Beijing.
Hua took a few more steps, and there they were: the brown, somewhat square, rounded-corner pieces of plastic that she and Ling had tossed around like Frisbees on that spring day a decade ago. When the four flat pieces landed on each other in pairs, they kind of looked like eyes. And, a pothole was in the perfect location to be the mouth for an abstract face. Ling took a picture of this. Wonder where that photograph is now. It’s probably still on her old phone. Such a carefree time back then. We all wanted to be done with school and enter the world of work in a big city. Should have savored those days.
A stray dog barked at something out of sight. Hua looked at the black, medium-size chow. Then the canine continued on its way. Wonder what that dog was barking at. There’s no one else around. Or, is there?
Hua then looked up at the cloudless cobalt-blue sky. She was pensive. Really don’t want to go back to that factory in Shanghai. But, my parents need the money. Maybe I could start a bakery in town. But, that would take start-up money, which I don’t have. Gosh, I feel trapped. What kind of life is this? What am I going to do?
She quickly turned around, but no one was there. Hua had only imagined her name being whispered. It was just a piercing-cold Mongolian gust. And then her phone chirped. She had received a text message from an unknown number.
I want to touch the sky, feel that blueness so light
But I can’t do any of this, so I’m leaving this world
Everyone who’s heard of me
Shouldn’t be surprised at my leaving
Even less should you sigh or grieve
I was fine when I came, and fine when I left
Hua is a young woman from remote northwestern China who takes a factory job in Shanghai. The work is tedious, wrist-aching and spirit-defeating. The hours are very long. On her only day off, she receives a phone call relaying some tragic news. Once back in her village, reminders of the forever-gone past appear. She wonders what she should do with her life. A mysterious text message only increases her doubt. Loosely based on some real-life events. Approx. 1,200 words. If this little tale were a movie, it would most likely be rated G (ok for all ages).