“Since when did you become Hei?” She asked as I breathed heavily on the wooden floor, the farm house empty yet still presided, the memories and objects and photos all still placed on the same spot their owners left them when they left, everything in the same way it was when somebody else was still here.
The house dark, the moonlight barely there, we hid on the corner of the smallest room, the one that had a yellow baby’s crib as the centerpiece, the walls plastered with sky blue and clouds presided with yellow and purple bears, fuzzy and happy in their own little captured state.
She asked me. “Why the name ‘Hei’?”
Coughing up still, unable to control myself, I lay limp on the wall and rested my head up, hopefully allowing the air to enter my lungs in an easier state.
I had already called FIBA the first moment I had with the landline phone, the first moment I had when I saw the ancient plastic turn-dial phone, one of those that got popular during my childhood when everyone wanted to go back to the ‘golden age’, the ‘better days’ of yesteryear.
Nostalgia has their way of controlling our feelings and ways of life.
Everyone wants to go back to when they felt young and safe.
“Just stay there and we’ll send someone right away.” Was the answer we got from the operator, as something booped and beeped in the background, the sounds of her typing and choosing on the holograph keyboard.
“Tell them to just stay put on the parameters and arrest anybody who approaches the farm house.” I said as Echo looked around the house for something that could patch me up, any herbs and medicine and bandage. “I think the suspect may be fully biomechanical, so there is a possibility that he is still alive and chasing after us. I want them to assert plan 3499 and use about a mile for the farm house parameters.”
Plan 3499 was basically surrounding the parameter and hiding so that nobody can see you, and then stealth capture any suspect that approaches the center base, which, in this case, is the farm house.
“Are you going to be alright?” The operator asked. “From the wounds that you described to me, it sounds like it may be fatal if we don’t treat it soon.”
Looking down at the blood and calculating the pain that my nerves shot up and down my body, I said “I should be fine for a couple of hours if I can find something to stop the blood and patch myself up a bit, but just in case, stand-by for a possible change in plans.”
“Affirmative.” The operator replied, before I hung up the phone and started the operation.
I could still barely feel my right arm.
Limping up the stairs, Echo returned with a first aid kit and some leaves she picked up from the garden on the back.
“Here, chew this.” She said as she handed me the leaves and pulled me up the stairs.
It tasted bitter and poisonous, but I chewed it anyway.
“Just get the juices and don’t swallow the leaves.” She said firmly as she checked what she had in the first aid kit, pulling things here and there before just dumping the rest of the box down the stairs.
“Are they going to do anything?” I asked as we moved through the darkness.
“They should slow down your blood flow enough so that your heart can sustain enough blood to keep pumping for a while.”
She looked around and took me towards the smaller room on the right, the one with the plastic carousel of purple elephants and orange monkeys hanging on top of a wooden crib.
I tried feeling the wound to see how far the damage had gone.
“Here.” She said as she lay me down on a corner, one that was lit enough thanks to the silver moonlight pouring from the window.
It was the longest second I ever had as I tried to lay myself down.
Crouching down to check on me, the bandages and medicine and such all bundled up in her hands, she asked me then “Since when did you become Hei?”
“Why the name ‘Hei’?”
I would have chuckled at her question if I wasn’t in such pain, if I wasn’t struggling to just breathe.
“Why the weird question at such an awkward time?” I asked as I looked out the window, trying to absorb the moonlight that slipped through the dirty panes of glass.
“Trying to keep you talking so that you could keep your mind off of this.”
Trying to look down, I asked “Is it bad?”
“It is not good, that’s for sure.” She replied as she poked around, her fingers searching and feelings through the blood and skin covering me. “The best news I have is that none of the bullets stayed inside you. It feels like a clean shot, with no shrapnel or anything stuck inside of you.”
“And the bad news?”
“It may be a while before I update the bad news.” She said as she took out a sewing needle pack from her pockets, and looked up at me as if to show me what she meant to do with them. “You know what this means, right?” She said as she held the pack of needles high enough for both of us to see.
As if I couldn’t see them the moment she pulled them out.
“Surgery possibility?” I winced at the only logical response I could have from the needles.
She just nodded at it, before saying “Keep talking.”
“We’ve gone through this before.”
Sighing, I wondered if her skills had rusted, if she still remembered all the training we had since the war.
It’s been a long, long time ago.
Or, at least, it felt like it.
Looking down again, pulling a few needles out already from the pack, she asked. “So why the name ‘Hei’?”
She said “Why not choose something else that would not stand out in this time and place?”
We were both born with just numbers and scan codes for a name when we were kids, because rejects that were not supposed to exist did not get names, because our parents did not care enough to give us names before they gave us away to their own government, and because the government did not care enough to give us all an individual name that actually meant something. So for the longest time, we only knew each other as numbers, scan code bars that separated us from the next, that made us all unique in a way that only products could get.
My name was 06251980, and hers was 09111987.
We only referred to each other as ‘him’ or ‘her’.
“When did you decide that your name would be ‘Hei’?” She asked again as she pulled out a lighter and looked around for something in the dark, dark room.
Taking in another struggled breath, I asked “Remember that time when we were sent out to destroy that Southern village by the providence of
Looking aside as if thinking, she shook her head after a while. “We’ve been to
“Well, I think it was when we were like fourteen or so.” I replied. “When we were setting up explosive charges on the bridges and some of the buildings that night, I spotted a little boy coming out of one of the houses and stumbling through the night with his right hand laying on the wall for support.
“The kid was still sleepy, but I was already ready in case he saw me and screamed out in alarm.
“Yawning, the boy just sort of stumbled to the edge of the building, before pulling down his pajama pants and letting out a stream of steaming piss.”
“That sounds normal.” She replied as she kept her eyes down close to the wound, her breath still warm enough to be felt through the wound.
“Right, so I sort of relaxed down a bit as I stared at him finish it off and pull his pants up.
“But when he turned around, he sort of just stumbled a bit and turned to look at the spot I was in, and after a while, as if squinting his eyes, he sort of slowly stopped and looked at me, at the spot in the shadow I was in.”
“You should have killed him.” She said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“I know,” I replied. “And I was ready to, but then, a voice came out of the house, I think calling the boy’s name, and before long, you could see an older woman with graying hair, sticking her head out of the crack of the house’s door and sort of just loud whisper the boy’s name.
“The kid kept staring at me, even after the woman spotted him and waved at him to come towards her, to head back inside where it’s warm, in that loud, husky whisper of hers.
“The boy sort of looked back at her, and then looked up at me, and then, his finger slowly lifting, pointed me out in the shadow.”
“And you still didn’t kill him?” Echo asked as she kept on with what she was doing.
“Well, I didn’t think he could see me anyway, so I was just waiting for the woman’s response.” I replied. “I actually had my gun already sighted at the woman before the boy pointed me out for her, so I was actually prepared for it just in case she saw me in the dark, just in case her face expressions changed after she turned around and looked towards my spot.”
“And?” She replied simply.
“And she didn’t.” I replied back in as simple an answer as hers. “She sort of just turned around and looked at where the boy pointed, squinting her eyes as she struggled to make a form out of anything, and turned back to the boy again to scold him for not listening to her.
“The kid kept pointing at me, now more awake than he was before, and saying ‘Hei, Hei’.
“The woman sort of lost patience and came out of the building herself, and dragged the kid back inside the house without another word.
“The kid kept looking at me, and his eyes never left my spot until the door was shut away for him, until the door blocked his sight from me.”
“You know ‘hei’ just means ‘black’ in Mandarin, right?”
Looking at the moonlight, I really didn’t care anymore. “Yeah, I do.” I replied.
“So the kid, in his kid talk, probably just meant for the mom to keep looking at the dark spot, or actually, even maybe tell her that you were hiding in the black spot.”
I smiled at this, almost chuckled if I could. “And it doesn’t matter now, does it?”
She nodded at this. “And if I’m right, the kid is probably dead now anyway, right?” She looked up at me after she said this. “I don’t remember leaving any villagers alive when we were in
And such was the truth that still stuck to us.