It was 3:30 in the morning and Mo-Fan awakened for the third time that night, startled out of a deep sleep by the same haunting dream. He was concerned that if the recurring dream cycle persisted he would not be able to chair the conference meeting scheduled for early in the morning. He opened a bottle of wine and started drinking it in large gulps hoping that the effects of the alcohol would quickly put him in a pleasant stupor that would permit him to sleep until dawn.
Unfortunately, for the moment, he was totally sober and looked around for some temporary distraction that would take his mind off of the disturbing dreams that were interrupting his nightly routine. He decided that reading a book would only stimulate his already over active brain and have the opposite effect that he was seeking. Instead, he opted for some mindless early morning television fare in hopes it would induce a mesmerizing trance conducive to a deep restful sleep.
He absent mindedly flipped through the channels until an astrology talk show caught his attention. They were currently discussing the fate of several celebrities, predicting their fortunes for the coming year; boring enough to put anyone to sleep. He was surprised when they announced before the commercial break that the topic of the next segment would be about ghosts and the supernatural. Why would anyone want to watch something like this and scare themselves in the middle of the night? Nevertheless, he was overcome by a morbid curiosity that kept him from changing the channel despite his frightening dreams.
The featured guest told a story about a spirit that contacted a close relative to get him to find out who had murdered him. As is typical, the guest explained, the spirit had manifested itself in the form of a dream. He went on to explain that very often, dead relatives use this method to give warning of danger or to get help from the living and the messages they deliver should not be ignored.
A thought began to form in Mo-Fan’s mind that the topic of the show relating so closely to his dreams was not mere coincidence and this sent a shiver through his body that raised the hairs on the back of his neck. By this time the effects of the wine were taking hold and he shuffled of to bed even though he had an inkling that his ordeal with the dreams was not over.
He drifted into slumber in a foggy haze and like the three previous times, the dream began in the same place. He was in a temple standing before his brother’s memorial shrine holding the sacred tablets, knowing that he had come to worship the gods on behalf of his brother. He also knew that Mo-Qian had a serious encounter that day and was in trouble. He must perform rituals of worship, give offerings of fruit and burn paper money in order to provide for his brother’s needs in the afterlife. He also apologized for his lack of attention to the funeral planning and explained that his brother and sister-in-law had made all the arrangements without consulting him and notified him just a day before the funeral.
While he was performing the rituals, two nuns appeared and were discussing how loved ones have needs even after they die and that lack of attention to performing the prescribed worship puts them in danger. Actions must be taken immediately to provide the souls of the dead with all the support they need. His subconscious was preparing him to awaken, as the three previous dreams had ended with the nun’s dialogue.
But this time the dream continued. He was standing at the edge of a forest in the mountains looking down at reflections of clouds in a crystal clear lake. Out of no where his fiancée appeared holding a baby in her arms. She was staring at him with an evil smile on her lips and without warning, threw the baby into the lake. Mo-Fan knew that this was his child and immediately jumped into the water to rescue him from drowning. He could find no trace of the child but he was desperate and would not give up his search even though he knew that the bottomless cold lake was jeopardizing his life.
Struggling and exhausted, he began to sink into the dark cold depths when his brother, Mo-Qian, pulled him out of the lake. Weak from the ordeal, he was angry at Xin-Xin who stood laughing at him. It seemed as though the baby had never existed and he had risked his life for an illusion. This was just a game for Xin-Xin and this deception put him in a state of rage that awakened him in a cold sweat.
“God damn, already 10:00! I can’t make the meeting.” He called the office to take a personal day and then sat on the sofa reflecting on the events of the night and the implications of his dreams. His emotions were a mixture of anxiety and intrigue imagining what fate lay in store for him. In the end, he decided that he must go to visit the family’s ancestors at the temple.
Upon arriving, he began to perform the rituals requested in the message his brother had given him in the dream. As he was finishing the chanting, the two nuns that had been in the dream suddenly appeared before him, having the same conversation. The eeriness of the coincidence shocked him so much that he could not concentrate on hearing what they were saying. Reality and dream began to intermingle and his mind drifted into a misty haze.
His oneiric detour from reality ended abruptly with his thoughts recalling his conversation with Xin-Xin three days ago. She had alternated between weeping supplication and accusatory blaming until he had yielded to his sense of responsibility for his unborn child and agreed to marry her. But now the vision of her gleeful, wicked smile as she watched the baby drown haunted him; that and his brother pulling him from the cold murky depths where the infant had disappeared despite his desperate struggle to find him. What was Mo-Qian trying to tell him?