Unring The Bell [COMPLETE]

All Rights Reserved ©

2 - Enter the Loong


METAPHASE


Twenty years later we see the Chinese government STAFF bustle. Sun-beating down, concrete shimmers under healthy foliage next to an imposing facility with the sign that reads:

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Guójiā Ānquán Bù; ‘State Security Ministry’


SHANG MI (27) sits cross-legged at the conference table. Her gaze riveted to the briefing. Her raven locks flow over her shoulders, loose and free. WU JINMAI (41) finishes the presentation. Wu chit-chat with a pair of MEN (various). Shang awaits her turn.

WU

Ms. Mi, stay for a moment.

She nods. The men complete their conversation and depart.

WU

Shang, do you still have contacts in America and Africa?

She ponders.

SHANG

Yes. I can contact them through my network.

WU

Good. There is a rumor of two children with abnormalities that have come to our attention. It may be nothing but genetic defects, but in case it’s more than that, I want you to look.

SHANG

What am I looking for?

WU

It’s easy. Find the ones that everyone is trying to find and the ones that the families are trying to hide. Do you understand?

SHANG

That’s interesting. Any pictures?

WU

Now if we had that, why would I send you? I need eyes on. Find out if this is the start of another pandemic. If not, make sure no fingers point to us.

SHANG

I can handle that.

WU

I’m sure.

(pause)

By the way, how did the last date go?

He moves with familiarity.

SHANG

Another flop. He didn’t have any goals for life. How does a 30-year-old man stay driven to level up his game avatar rather than make use of his life? Besides, my mother is at the market now doing shopping for another contender.

WU

The offer of...

SHANG

Wu. That is generous but unnecessary. Besides, how many of your nephews would I have to send for recycling when they pester too much. All I ask is to do my laundry and rub my feet, not pick at my work.

Wu laughs.

WU

Modern women. Something fierce and yet a danger to the status quo.

SHANG

I don’t speak for my gender, but for me, I have always been this way. Pride in my job and to protect those who are weaker than the bullies.

WU

I knew I chose the right person. Make sure you file the expenses on time. No open bank vault, so carefully.

SHANG

Scared I’ll buy a Michael Kors bag and some Kardashian clothes?

WU

Only someone with a Ferrari could afford your tastes. Not our government.

SHANG

My tastes are for quality.

Wu grunts and shakes his head. Shang leaves the room. Wu follows.

SHANG

Where do I start?

WU

Analysts compared SAT images and drone video in a sweep on the African eastern seaboard in preplanning for a DV visit.

SHANG

Any context?

Wu hands her a flash drive.

WU

In there, both sides want to push forward bilateral relations. Before that can happen, we need to verify if any anomalies would derail talks. The PRC kept track of certain uprising areas and noted a pocket of unusual peace. You’re going to see if there is a cease-fire or if the individual who caught our asset’s attention is responsible.

Shang palms the drive as she strides to exit the building.

Vivid dashes of trees and foliage drape the façade. History never far away in décor. Shang heads down the stairs onto the busy sidewalks.

She peeks at her phone. Shang continues walking down the stairs...

LI HUA (46) sits on a stool. An array of papers sprawls at her feet. CROWD mingles. Shang strolls to Li Hua and greets her. The park is full of people on this day.

LI HUA

Sha’! You came.

SHANG

Of course. To remind you, I earn more yuan than some men.

LI HUA

That is why it’s wise to come to market. To find the good ones.

SHANG

I don’t have a big city hukou.

LI HUA

You don’t want to be alone forever.

SHANG

Momma, you know I am busy with work. I don’t marry right now. I want to be free. My career is very important to me. I have a passion and desire for it.

LI HUA

There is Weisheng. His family is admirable. He works in the warehouse district.

SHANG

Mom, are you hearing me?

LI HUA

Or Jin?

SHANG

Times changed. Women are independent and have income nowadays.

LI HUA

You make me heartbroken. Your father and I want to see you happy. What did I do to fail you? So many ladies your age are not ready to be old.

SHANG

Nothing. One day I will have babies. That’s not today. I’m not an item on the shelf. It will be exhausting to take care of children, to be part of some man’s family.

LI HUA

There is a right mix of things of value. I love you very much.

SHANG

I know mama. No one on a wintry day would be out here unless they love. I don’t want you to feel devastated, and I honor you very much. But, I must be honest with you and myself.

LI HUA

You are a good girl. Master’s degree. Good height. You’re beautiful. I am trying to find you a husband for...

SHANG

…grandchildren? Momma. Please. I know how happy that will be for you and dad. Me too. But not yet. I have a work trip I must go on.

Li Hua watches the crowd lost in thought. She peeks at Shang.

LI HUA

Daughter, if you see a man slightly better looking than a monkey, you will let me know?

SHANG

There are such men?

The two share a laugh that brings tears.

LI HUA

Maybe when you get a tender treatment you won't be lonely.

A COUPLE (mid to late 50s) approach Li Hua. They discuss Shang’s biography. Shang eavesdrops. The couple takes a sheet as they look upon Shang hugging Li Hua.

SHANG

If you find a good one, I know you will let me know. You and dad don’t want me to be a sheng nu. I must leave soon for work.

LI HUA

When will you return?

SHANG

Soon. I hope. I love you, mom.

Li Hua smiles and nods.

LI HUA

You be safe and come home soon. I will have a dozen for you to choose from.

The elderly couple takes a life-resume from the piles and discusses amongst themselves.

Li Hua and Shang hold one another’s hands.

SHANG

And mom? No “dominant” men. I am no one’s pet bunny.

The elderly man speaks up.

ELDER MAN

I’m sorry but because she has a degree, your daughter must be very tough, not obedient. Maybe very bossy. Maybe she wouldn’t follow the orders of a husband.

Shang rolls her eyes.

SHANG

Sir? Would your son be able to offer financial incentives for the privilege to dictate my fertility? Would you be able to verify he is virile and treats me as the Chinese woman that is deserving as the most powerful communal resource for creating the citizens of the future? I’m a young, vibrant female whose beauty is not only in my mind and heart but layered on my body. Your son must be highly educated, willing to share the housework, and respectful of women. Can you show me his resume so that I can be assured I’m marrying up in social class? Honorable sir, I mean no disrespect, but my truth cannot be subjugated to your society that fights for me to surrender fight my gender and my place in society. I am not subversive. I would submit to someone that leads me to be greater than I am, not because of marriage promise, but because he genuinely loves me and wants the best in a partner.

The elderly couple’s eyes widen and they mutter off. The woman turns back for a moment. Li Hua motions for her to hold her tongue.

LI HUA

If you think my daughter has an exacting standard, you have yet to discuss it with me. No amount of mocking or pressure will deny me from seeking the world for my most beautiful and loving daughter. She serves our nation like Mulan. What family gains her permission will be astounded by the jewel that my Shang is. I am proud of her. So come back with a decent dowry and we’ll discuss your term for surrender.

Li Hua catches Shang’s misting eyes.

LI HUA

That is if she is happy with what your son brings to her review.

The couple slips into the crowd.

Shang looks astounded.

LI HUA

They say there are millions of single men. That means you, my darling, have more power. You are bright and make us very proud. I want grandchildren, but most I want you to be happy. Who cares what they say you must do with your gender, your womb. That is yours. We want our family line to continue, and I am sure when you are ready...

SHANG

When that moment comes, you will be the first to know.

She hugs her mother with tears freezing down her cheeks.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.