Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Adventure of John Smith

The American is panting hard. He had been following the old man climbing this mountain for nearly an hour now, his jogging shoes must have split somewhere, and his feet felt strangely dislocated. “Where is this guy going?” he thought, but he didn’t have any time and extra energy to do much thinking now, somehow, he needed all his concentration to keep up with the old man.

The American started his day jogging in the park beside his hotel. He has visited this small island country in East Asia for dozens of times, always business traveling, for his current and previous jobs. Worldwide development of high-tech electronics like computers, mobile phones, and game consoles are all concentrated in this country, so this is where all the businessmen in the high-tech business have to come once in a while to sell components and buy products. He has always stayed in the same hotel and jogged in the same park all these years. He knows this area well and weren’t interested in changing.

It was a fine morning, earlier than when normal people would rise and start their activities, because he had jet lag and couldn’t sleep after he woke up four o’clock in the morning. He finished his emails and started jogging around five. The sun hasn’t risen yet, although it’s slowly starting to lighten up.

After fifteen minutes of slow jogging as a warm up, he started to pick up speed to intensify his exercise. This was his personal secret to build up his strength. He enjoyed the speed and the amazement look from fellow joggers, especially when he was in a foreign country. Actually, jogging a bit faster could compensate for a shorter jog and decrease the boredom of running around this small park, he always thought.

Suddenly, when he has started to build up a bit of sweat, a voice talked to him very calmly and slowly beside him. “Hello,” it said. “How do you do?” The American twisted his head and saw this old man jogging alongside. He has untidy hair, rather dark features, like he’s from an aboriginal tribe. The American has met quite a number of these native people on this island, and can tell them apart from the majority Chinese people. He looks like he was very old, wrinkled face and gray hair, something like in his eighties or more. He was wearing a light jacket, and has his hands thrust deep inside the pockets. Strangely, he was running as agile and smooth as a young person, keeping at the same speed but seemed to be very relaxed and easy. “My name is Kang.” He has a strange accent speaking English, not alike the accent of the normal Chinese people the American has known from his frequent visits. “What is your name?” He seemed to be trying to make a school book conversation. “Err, Smith? John Smith?” Not willing to give his real name, this is the first name that came into his mind. “Ah! Mister Smith.” Smith nodded. “You like jogging?” Kang asked, very slowly, like having difficulty in putting in an English sentence. “Err,” grumbled Smith, not really interested in the conversation, “yeah?” “Good, good!” Kang seemed rather pleased with himself. “Come, follow me!” Kang said. “What? Why?” asked Smith. “Come. You will not regret.” The old man suddenly sped up into a very fast sprint and started across the street. “Wait!” Curiosity kills the cat, Smith thought, but he was a very curious cat now, and took off after the old man.

Kang certainly didn’t care for traffic lights or roads or, now that Smith started to find out, forest or bushes. He just went in a straight direction, aiming for a nearby mountaintop. The city that Smith was visiting was a big basin, with mountain ridges surrounding. These mountains were steep and dangerous, with loose soils and boulders, rainforest foliage, and lots of man made obstacles like walls, nets, fences, and power poles in all the odd places. Kang just ignored everything and went straight ahead. Trying to keep up, Smith quickly found that by following Kang’s footsteps, imitating his odd jumping and skipping here and there, he could actually keep up. Smith started to build up a frustration. “Hey there, Kang! Stop it!” Kang yelled “Catch me, then I stop.”

Smith was now panting very hard. A very strange thought suddenly came up. He has never been running this hard before, never this fast, for that long. He couldn’t understand how he came to have that much energy to do this. He tried to stop but his feet keeps running, following the old man six feet in front of him in every step he took. He felt like a puppet, a puppet that would fall and die of exhaustion in a few minutes time. However, he kept going and going, oblivious to his surroundings now, just run, and follow.

Suddenly, Kang stopped. Smith stopped too, like someone has given him a signal to stop at the same time. Bewildered, Smith looked around, and was shocked to find that he was standing on the very top of one of the mountains surrounding the city. The view was stunning. All green nearby, long grass and weeds around the top, rainforest-like trees on the slopes, skyscrapers and highways in the distance in the city. Smith suddenly felt dizzy and fell on his hips. “Sit down, sit down,” said Kang, and sat down in front of Smith, cross-legged, but with both his feet over the knee of the other limb. “Sit like this,” he said. Smith shook his head a bit, pulling his legs under him into a sitting position. Kang’s hands suddenly seem to grow two or three feet longer, poked Smith’s legs and feet in some odd places, and then pushed and pulled his legs a few times. When he’s done, Smith is also sitting cross-legged and feet over knee. It didn’t even felt painful! “Who are you?” Smith finally asked.

Kang broke into a big smile, with a few teeth missing. “I am master of Kung Fu, as you Americans said.” He suddenly became very serious. “I am twenty seventh master of my branch.” “But you’re not Chinese,” Smith observed. “No, I not Chinese. I am Kuluba Clan, east of island. I went to China when I was kid and learned Kung Fu.” “So was that Kung Fu? How you ran and jumped all the way up the mountain?” “Yes. You also ran and jumped all the way up the mountain, no?” The smirk froze on Smith’s face. “How did I do that?” “I given you Chi and guided your body”.

Smith became quite, trying to think back how he followed the Kung Fu master up the mountain. “Now we are resting, I stop give you Chi. You take nap.” Kang murmured in a low voice. Smith suddenly felt dizzy and very tired, and slumped onto the ground, unconscious!

After a few minutes, or maybe a few hours, Smith woke up, still lying on the ground, and felt that his hands and feet were as heavy as lead. “Wow. I’m tired!” announced Smith. “How are we going to go back down now? I have a plane to catch in the evening and I can’t be sitting here all day!” Kang showed his teeth-less smile again. “What? Are you going to give me Chi again?” Asked Smith. “No, I am master, not fairy. I also exhausted.” “What? So what can we do? Live in the mountain for days? Kill animals for food?” exclaimed Smith. “No worry, this twenty first century. I have cell phone”. Kang pulled a slim phone out from his jacket pocket, twirled his fingers on the touch screen a bit, and started to speak into the phone, in a language that Smith could tell isn’t the Mandarin Chinese normal people used. Kang laughed and made sounds that sounded like barking and yelping on the phone. When he hung up, his teeth-less smile is wider that before. “So?” Asked Smith. “My friend will pick us up. But his Land Rover dropped into mud pit, have to wrench it up.”

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