Living Nightmare, Dying Dream | Teen Ink

Living Nightmare, Dying Dream

April 21, 2011
By shadow66 BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
shadow66 BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
3 articles 12 photos 0 comments

I ducked behind another building and plastered myself against its wooden sides, my chest heaving as I panted for breath. Sweat trickled down the side of my face, gathering on my chin before dripping to land on my shabby faded black boots. Bringing my hand up, I wiped at the moisture that threatened to drip into my burning eyes. My threadbare blue tunic stuck to my skin like glue as I lowered my clammy hands to wipe them against my dusty black pants.
I need to hurry, I thought as I peeked around the corner only to quickly pull my head back as a mob of white demons with shiny guns came into my sight. ‘White demons’ is the name I gave to the Americans because they reminded me of demons from the stories mother tells. They’re really called bak gway, white ghosts, because of their pale, white skin color.

Quieting my breathing, I inched myself down to the ground and as discreetly as possible, I peered my head around the corner once more. I regretted it immediately. The ground was littered with bodies of deep blue tunics and long black hair tied back in queues. Red liquid stained the clothing of both the death and living. Splatters of red created pictured on the ground, forming a stark contrast of red against light brown. The red liquid reflected in color to the flames that danced among the wooden buildings around the bloody site.

I watched in horror as the white demons shot down Chinaman after Chinamen, each laughing hysterically as the bodies dropped like a multitude of dolls onto the bloody ground. Some died upon impact, others laid on the ground moaning, shouting feebly for help and begging for their lives in words only I could understand. Tears threatened to spill as I listened to their anguished cries, but I stubbornly wiped then away with the back of my callused hands.
The white demons pointed and laughed at the dying Chinamen. Laughed as one by one, the Chinamen were silenced by the roar of a bullet. Applauding and cheers erupted from the bystanders who roared with approval and demanded more “John” blood to be spilt.
It made my stomach hurl as I watched the smiling faces of the demons. Watched as the white demons’ smiles grew bigger and bigger with each death. It was just so sickening to see other humans taking pleasure in killing others. Though it makes me wonder if they even think of us as humans like them.
Pulling my head back, I closed my eyes and tried to desperately calm my racing heart. My arms curled across my stomach as I leaned my head against my aching knees. I hate this place so much. I wish I never came to this horrid land. I thought as I clenched my eyes tightly, trying in vain to keep the tears from falling.
This place was not the Paradise that we were told about. There were no mountains of gold. There were no peaceful lives away from the greedy men. There was no everlasting food. All there was were white demons that hated us with a passion and wanted us dead. Dead, dead, dead.
I had came to this land in place of my Elder brother, whom my Father did not want to come. My Father has objected at first to anyone in the family coming to this strange land, but the fields grew more fallow each year. Elder brother declared that he would come to Gam Saan and earn lots of money to send back to the family. My Father refused. He said he needed Elder brother to help him in the fields. I wasn’t allowed to work in the fields because I was too weak and too clumsily. Often times I planted the crops too deep or not deep enough, leading to a shortage of crops to sell.
They got into an argument for days. Elder brother keep insisting on going and Father downright refusing. It wasn’t until 7 days later that they came to a compromise. Father would allow someone in the family to go, but not Elder brother. He sent me, the weak one.
Three days later I found myself standing in Canton, a ticket bought from the field Father sold. I was alone. A small box containing two changes of clothes, some paper, ink and brush, and what money my family was able to spare was held tightly in my arms.
I was scared. Scared as I was lead with other people from the many districts of GuangZhou into the belly of a great ship. Scared as the ship lurched upon the waves. Scared as food and water was dumped from above the iron gates that barred us from fresh air. Scared as one by one, the people in the small confined space died. I feared I would be one of them next.
Days stretched into agonizing months. Finally the ship was docked and those left living were herded out of the death trap. My first sight of Gam saan destroyed what dreams I had of finding gold to send back to my family.
My Cousin Lei met up with me in Dai Fou, San Francisco, and took me to Rock Springs, Wyoming to work with him and his brothers in the coal mines. My life went downhill from their. I worked daily in the suffocating mines and sent what little I made back to my family. But it was never enough. The return letter always asked for more and more money, nothing else. So I worked and worked as hard as I could to send back enough money so that one day I would be asked my Father to return and live a rich life with my family.
My first experience with the White demons was horrifying. Little white demon boys pulled at my queue and threatened to cut it off. I couldn’t let them do that though. Without my queue intact, I could never go back home. I had lashed back at them, only to have a bigger white demon join the fight in beating me up. I was left working with bruises fro the later days. It wasn’t until later that I was told that the white demons hated us and secretly wanted us, the Chinamen. to either die.
All, because they say we were stealing their jobs. But we didn’t. We work in the coal mines for hours on end, from dawn to dust, while they work only for a couple of hours. We didn’t steal their jobs, because it was their fault for angering the person in charge with strikes and refusals to work, and getting fired for it (“Chinese Riot and Massacre”).
They grew angry that we were hired in place of them. They grew angry that we refused to go on strike with them for better working conditions. They grew angry at us for making them jobless and with no way to feed their family (“Chinese Riot and Massacre”). But they did not want to acknowledge that it was their fault, so they place their blame on us. They made us their scapegoats.

We all knew that the White demons wanted us dead, but we also knew that they wouldn’t kill us. Not unless they wanted to deal with the Company that hired us. Up until today, they haven’t done anything as severe as insulting and inflicting upon us physical wounds, never killing though. Not until today

It’s hard to believe that it all started this early morning. We had got up and want about our morning business before heading for our separate rooms to mine for coal. A little after seven, a bunch of white demons came and started shouting at the Chinamen working in Coal Pit No. 6 (““To This We Dissented””). Cousin Lei, who knew the most English out of all of us, told us that the demons were saying that the No. 5 entry was their room. That made no sense through, because Mr. Evans, the foreman, had said that No. 5 entry was for us to work in (““To This We Dissented””).

The two Chinamen that were working in the No. 5 entry did not know English, but tried to reason with the demons. However, that just seemed to make the demons even more angry. They started waving their hands equipped with picks and shovel, their shouts increasing in volume, attracting a large crowd of miners. Once second the demons where yelling, the next, blows were being exchanged (“Chinese Riot and Massacre””).

Everything was a blur after that. I remember Cousin Lei pushing me away from the brawl of crazed fighters, telling me to go and get help. Dazed, I had numbly nodded my head, my queue swishing against me back as I turned and ran to get help. But I hadn’t gotten very far. I remember myself falling, a pain erupting at the back of my head. Then, blackness, as I saw the ground rushing up toward me.

I had woken up to a dreadful headache, felling like a hammer was pounding continuously on my head. Someone had bandaged my head, but I had not dared to touch the point of the pain, fearing that that would have just increased my torment.

Everything happened in a flash after I woke up. I was told that a large mob of demons had gathered outside Chinatown with arms and were demanding for the Chinese to leave. They had given us an hour to pack and depart, but it seemed that they were growing impatient (“Chinese Riot and Massacre.””). Cousin Lei told me to get to Chinatown and warn Uncle Ah Lee to leave immediately and meet up with us in San Francisco. Hurriedly, I left the cabin, leaving Cousin Lei to pack what necessities we owned, and ran as fast as my legs could to Chinatown.

By the time I got there, it was already too late. Flames leapt from building to building showering sparks of flames upon the scurry of blue clad bodies that ran from homes with their possessions on their backs. But some never made a foot outside their dwellings before they went down (““To This We Dissented””).

Gunshots filled the air, mixing grotesquely with the cheering and laughter. My stomached had hurled and I had found myself emptying my stomach of what little food it contained. After wiping the remaining bile from my lips with the sleeve of my blue tunic, I had stood determinedly and ran toward the Chinatown turned Hell.
“Hey! Hey! There’s one over here! I found one over here! Quick!”
I snapped my head up to stare horrified at the demon boy that was shouting and waving his arms in the air. A finger was waved toward my direction repeatedly as the demon boy tried to gain the over demons attention. What little blood flowed through my face left, leaving me as pale as the demons that chased after me.
“Whacha ya find boy?” A deep voice growled, as a burly white demon stepped from around the corner with a rifle clenched tightly in his hands. Blood had stained his white shirt red, making him even more demonic along with those cold narrowed eyes.
The sight of the demonic creature was all the encouragement I need. I scrambled hurriedly to my feet and fled. Distantly I heard the demons roaring out in anger, but I didn’t stay long enough to hear. I didn’t care either.
I ran through body littered and blood pooled streets. Bullets flew around me, one even nicked me on my left cheek, causing me to flinch in pain, but it didn’t stop me. Nor did I pause to help my kinsmen that moaned for help as they lay dying upon the streets. My fear fueled me to keep running, as adrenaline pumped through my body. All around me, images of nightmares blurred through my eyes as I ran, but no matter how I tried to stop the images, they kept coming.
I saw demons gunning down Chinamen after Chinamen, dropping them as little girls dropped their little dolls, seeming to enjoy every moment of it. I saw demons pointing weapons at defenseless Chinamen, motioning for them to drop their possessions. I saw demons searching Chinamen’s belongs, wearing the gold or silver that they found. I saw demons beating Chinamen with their fists or weapons before robbing their corpses of what little they owned (““To This We Dissented””).
I saw demons entering homes of my kinsmen and looting what they found. I saw demons coming out of homes wearing Chinese silk and jewelry and prancing about like a proud peacock. I saw demons setting homes on fire and hooting in amusement as Chinamen tumbled from the burning buildings covered in flames and shouting for help (““To This We Dissented””).

The air was filled with the stink of burnt flesh and cooked meat. The copper scent of blood floated upon the winds. The heat from the flames became a catalyst for the acrid smells. The odor of death filled the streets of Chinatown.
I turned another corner and stopped behind a house to catch my breath for a second before I shot off again. I couldn’t afford to rest. Not until I found Uncle Ah Lee and escaped from this nightmare.
I really wanted to go back to my family now. I don’t want to stay in this nightmare any longer. I don’t care if the money I earned in this Hellish land made my family rich. I don’t care that being her made me a hero or a rich boy back home. I don’t care. I just want to go back home and live with my family and never have to return to this nightmare.
I turned a final corner that would lead me straight to Uncle Ah Lee’ laundry and was about to shout for my Uncle, when I was stopped by the sight in front of me. Horror filled me as I realized that I was too late. I stood rooted to the spot; numbness filled my body as I stared at the bloody corpse that lay crumpled before the broken laundry house.
Though the face was badly beaten to deformation, I could still recognize it as the familiar face of my Uncle. A hole bleed darkly from the back of his head; the source of his demise ( “Chinese Riot and Massacre” ). Staring at the lifeless eyes, I felt my legs turn to jelly. I urged my legs to move, to run, far away from this nightmare, but I couldn’t. All I could do was stand their staring in fear at my Uncle’s dead eyes. Everything around me bleeds away, leaving only me and the dead body. No sound, no smell.
Pain coursed through my chest, as blood gurgled from my mouth and dropped down my chin. I watched as the ground rushed toward my face and felt the stones on the ground dig into my skin. I heaved for breath as I felt blood surged like a flood into my lungs. I was shot. Shot in the lungs. Panic filled me as I realized…
I was dying.
I don’t want to die yet. I want to go home and see my family. I want to be praised my father for being so brave to work in the demon’s land and for making the family rich. I wanted to see my mother smile and hug me as she did when I was young. I wanted to play with my elder brother in the fields and watch the stars at night with my younger sister. I wanted to share my dreams and hopes with my best friends next door. I wanted to live.
More blood foamed from my mouth and I coughed up another glob of blood, adding to the growing pool of blood around me head. I needed to get up and run. I needed to run for the hills, the only path of escape. I needed to live.
I tried to push myself up with my wobbling arms, but movement caused a ripple of pain through my chest. I gasped in pain and flopped bonelessly back to the ground, moaning as another rush of throbbing pain rushed through my tired body. Blackness crossed my vision but I refused to surrender.
“Hey! This one is still alive!” A black boot stomped inches from my bloodied face. Another hard boot jabbed deeply into my ribs, flinging me to land on my back before stomping heavily upon my bleeding chest, adding to the my pain.
“Well, he ain’t gonna live for long. Stupid John boy.”
The click of a gun shattered my silence. Panic coursed through me. No, no, no! I don’t want to die! Not now. Not until I see my family again.
I tried to move my aching body, but it refused to budge, not even to lift of a single finger. Numbness spread through me body. Desperately I screamed at my body to move, but still it refused. A painful moan escaped my lips. It was hopeless.
I pried open my heavy lids and was faced with the demonic face of a demon women. Her once pretty face was contorted into a hideous mask, befitting of the Devil himself. A gun was held in her shaky hands, but her eyes shone with determination and hatred. Her red lips were twisted into a sneer and when she spoke, her voice was filled with only rage.
“This is for my family, you filthy Chinaman!” She fired.
A greater pain blossomed in my chest. This time the bullet flew true and pierced my heart. More blood gushed from the bloody lips and spilled to stain the already innocent ground. I dragged in one final, painful breath and surrendered. My eyes lids grew heavy and closed, shielding me from the blood stained face of the demonness.
I was killed by the demons, but death woke me from the nightmares of mortality.
As blackness swallowed me, and the pain left me, I saw in my mind’s eyes, the smiling faces of my family. My Mother stood in front of our shabby looking house, wiping her hands on her apron before spreading her thin arms out to welcome me home. My little sister, with her shiny black hair tied on either side of her head, came running from our house. Her face was stretched into a wide smile that showed the gaps between her yellow-white teeth.
From behind the house, came my Father and Elder Brother, both looking tired from a days work in our two fields. My Elder brother was the first to see me. He raised his dirt stained hand in a wave, while his other hand unwrapped his queue from around his neck. His steps became rushed, causing him to stumble slightly; he had always been very clumsy I thought fondly.
He was saved from meeting the ground by a heavily callused hand grasping his elbow. My father helped flustered Elder brother gain his footing before turning toward me. His deep black eyes softened as he stared into my own eyes. Opening his mouth, he spoke in a warm voice I had not heard in years.
“Welcome home, Wei Wu Long.”
I smiled sadly, before lifting my hand to wave at my family.
I had returned home, but only in my dreams.

The author's comments:
Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush in California. The terrors of discrimination and hate.

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