Return, O Wanderer, Return.
ARTICLE THEME OF NOVEMBER 2020: “WELLNESS” — DIMENSION OF “WELLNESS” #4: SOCIAL
The year is 2240, the locations involved in this account are Hong Kong and Beijing, the Capital, will be rendered the Celestial City. For untold years, the King of the Celestial City has had rebels rise up against him, challenging his kingship. In one indissoluble decree, he exiled all the revolting tribes, their descendants from his kingdom, to be contained on a faraway island, Hong Kong and has set up fortifications to guard the Celestial City, forbidding all to enter. Hong Kong, in this account, is one of lawlessness, disease, self-deceit, and misery. On the island, one speaks lies against another, one flatters his neighbour to gain an advantage, and behind many sweet words lie many daggers. The weak have become a footstool for oppressors. So-called governors pay lip-service to serve justice to their district residents, they turn a blind eye to their plight, and walk away from their governing responsibilities.
As one ancient but infallible, heavenly account has said before, “where there is no king in the land, all did what was right in his own eyes.”.
20 days to E-Day (Day of Extermination)
Cleopas hung fast to the speedboat, which, in 10 minutes’ time will crash into Deep Water Bay Beach of Hong Kong Island. Red arrows shot by coastal watchmen have penetrated the top coverings of the makeshift boat, but not the hull. Cleopas was very glad, he could enter the Lost World unscathed, for now. The task that laid before him was heavy, but its end-goal far exceeded his own comforts.
Abandoned cargo ships surrounded the beach bay, split crude oil covered the entire bay coast with a black, hardened layer, untouched for hundreds of years. Cleopas’ makeshift speedboat cut though it with ease, thanks to the strongly oleophobic kneel and hull. The resultant cracks shattered the silence of the beach bay, Cleopas heard shouting in the distance.
The ship touched the beach bay and he jumped ashore and sprinted for cover. He could hear the distant sound of a round being chambered in a long rifle somewhere in the lonely, gloomy hills in Monte Verde, where greedy billionaires once resided, someone was planning to take his life. Undismayed, he had expected this, Cleopas was here to bring the message of life. His current priority was to arrive at the City of the Lost World by way of the Aberdeen Tunnel– it was the quickest route.
He dove into a shattered window of a golf house. A shot was fired. It met the sandy ground a meter away from the front porch of the building, glass windows shattered from the impact. Cleopas had no time to waste, he hunted around for a vehicle.
18 days to E-Day (Day of Extermination)
The mini-golf cart rendered good service to Cleopas for 2 full days but what Cleopas saw in the course of the two days broke his heart. The walls of the abandoned tunnel were blackened — not by years of neglect or overgrown mould… but by curse words, sprayed across the walls by the exiled rebels… the journey for 2 long days only had deepened his resolve to tell the perpetrators of their impending doom and the good news.
16 days to E-Day (Day of Extermination)
Crowds gathered around a bleeding Cleopas. Their familiar dialect made Cleopas — even in a nauseating and dizzy state — reminisce of his childhood days he spent with his childhood friends… the worry-free playtimes, the politics-free relationships… before the exile.
The mini-golf cart had been riddled with bullet holes… Cleopas fled in time when the first bursts of gunfire cracked the silence near the HK Racing Museum, which seconds before he heard the first round, he caught a glance of the COVID-19 vaccination centres, with shattered glass and discarded serum bottles strewn across the vast field. A bullet had nicked Cleopas’ shoulder and during the course of fleeing he had stumbled and sprained his knee… Now limping across the intersection, he made a final dash to the Queen Elizabeth Stadium. The barricaded doors flung open to reveal a man in black-clad armour holding a heavily worn and torn two-stick banner:
“CEASE-FIRE. YELLOW ZONE.”
Cleopas had limped across a yellow dashed line on the tarmac… the gunfire obediently ceased.
One of the men stepped to Cleopas and offered him a glass of water. Cleopas received it and thanked him profusely. The crowd… he briefly glanced… had rugged faced elderly men, toddlers, whitish haired women, and a number of amour-glad men holding tightly to their makeshift weapons. Clearly the felt tension in the hall did not mean much welcome for Cleopas but neither did the exiles receive guests every day.
“Who you?” One man in black asked in poor English.
“NEI LAI ZI BIN DOU GAA?” Where are you from? Another shouted in Cantonese.
Cleopas felt for the letter in his satchel just before a cacophony exploded in the dimly lit hall, which doubled as a living quarters for the exiles there.
A man of middle stature stood up and the crowd of numbering roughly 40 (as Cleopas’ vision began to adjust in the dimness) quieted themselves with one accord.
“You are a stranger to our land. Tell us what you want to say to us. Speak for yourself.” he said in perfect English.
“That is a command.”
Standing up straight and looking in the crowd, Cleopas unfolded the letter he had kept securely all this while. He had waited for this moment. The response will not all be positive, he was sure, but he resolved to remain faithful, be it what consequences he knew the proclamation will incur.
“My name is Cleopas. Sent from the King of the Celestial City. I have been sent on behalf of the King to –
“FUNG!” Crazy! One quipped. The man who gave the command to Cleopas to speak spoke again, “Listen.”
“I have been sent on behalf of his majesty to retrieve you all home. The King is offering his full pardon of all your offenses to his kingship. And by the merit paid by his own son, the rightful heir, he has set his own seal on this letter as proof that this offer is genuine. By means of holding up this seal, the gates of the Celestial City will open to whoever forsakes their rebellion and give yourselves fully to be allegiant to the King. He promises to receive you all into his kingdom without cost. The King is pleased to give you this offer today, return, O wanderers, leave this island for your home to serve, love your King.”
Holding up the priceless letter to show the crowd, with words penned by the King himself, sealed by the hands of his own son, even under the dim lights, the onlooking crowd stood in awe at written promise. At lost, they did not know how to respond.
“Just follow me! I can take you there! The King is pleased to offer you full pardon –
An arrow grazed Cleopas in the right arm, Cleopas yelped… but continued to proclaim: “Follow me! There is not much time, the King also has declared to flood this island in a number of days, as his majesty plans to make all things new. He will re-set this island as it were, for the lawless deeds of this island as reached even his majesty’s ears.
The enraged archer began to reload and take aim, Cleopas shoved the letter in his satchel and made a beeline for the exit, but continued to yell, “Follow me! The King’s words do not lie!” Numbering to 18, men and women, teens and a few elderly ones set their belongings aside and quickly ran out the building with him.
14 days to E-Day (Day of Extermination)
After reaching Avenue of Stars from Golden Bauhinia Square, the crowd that had believed had totalled 460. As they slowly disembarked from an old ferry (Cleopas was pleasantly surprised to see one still in use today), one of the young children tugged at Cleopas’ blood-stained shirt and asked, “where are we going, Mr.?”
Smiling, he replied, “Hey!” He paused, and squinting his eyes, he tried hard to articulate the all-important location where he was promised a passage of escape was offered, one which practically speaking, was impossible in light of the state of the present world. Struggling with doubt himself, the bruised and dizzy ambassador replied weakly to the hopeful young child, “CITY ONE — SHATIN.”
“But how do we get to the City from there?” he asked — it was a pertinent question, one the others have not asked.
“I am not sure…”
“But we are going there, right?”
“Yes, we are.”
“But how do we get to the City from Shatin if we don’t know what is going to happen?”
Smiling, Cleopas patiently replied, “We will see, little one. Trust in the promise of the King.”
6 days to E-Day (Day of Extermination)
The crowd that Cleopas led grew from a meagre band of 18 to an army of 850. Arrow-shooting mercenaries, King-hating governors, widows, orphans, disillusioned rebels, even several tribal chiefs at war with one another had joined the seemingly ragtag body. Like a tapestry, each life detailed a history of rebelling against the King, each one were raised to hate the King, each one were taught from young to have no dealings with the King…
But their lives in the dreaded island, removed from the King offered no paradise, did it not?
Children were left to themselves, husbands were unfaithful to their wives, chiefs of tribes warred against other chiefs over the most trivial of matters. Food was abundant for the powerful, the weak were left to fight over leftovers in the most deplorable living conditions. Vice was called virtue, night was considered day, darkness called light. The self-deceit had blinded the exiles so deeply, that only the King’s promise of pardon made them realize their need for pardon and need for restoration.
In the mass throng of happy people… the thieves gave apples to the hungry, the powerful consoled the widows, the irresponsible helped to carry toddlers on their backs, the oppressor — a gang leader — with teary eyes asked a boy whose eye he bruised for forgiveness.
As one ancient but infallible, heavenly account has said before, “where there is no king in the land, all did what was right in his own eyes.”
But now, where the King whose rightful place has been restored in the hearts of men, the law is upheld, love rules amongst the peoples, strangers become family under one ruling King.
4 days to E-Day (Day of Extermination)
The massive throng of people had numbered to 1046 as the news spread and more were added to it. Cleopas was overjoyed but his condition was not improving, the humidity and the arduous journey had taken its toll on his already weak body. Walking as one body on one of the narrow passageways cut in the Lion Rock mountains, they sang the old songs of praise of old, rendered unto the King. Cleopas turned around and exhorted them cheerfully, “Press on! We don’t have much time!”
2 days to E-Day (Day of Extermination)
The middle-statured man from Queen Elizabeth Stadium appeared on the horizon just as the exodus ended, with Cleopas as its lead. CITY-ONE, Shatin laid in view, just behind the middle-statured man.
He spoke to Cleopas ominously, “Stop.”
Cleopas, “Sir! The King has offered us all pardon and a safe passage home. His son has sealed the letter of promise with his own hands! Forgiveness and merit, on my part? No! Instead, all we need, the King has provided. You too can join us and be free to return home –
The middle-statured man aimed his large revolver and fired at Cleopas from the distance. Of the 6 shots fired, 3 entered Cleopas abdomen. The man swiftly reloaded and whistled for his followers who were hiding on the mountain tops to shoot at Cleopas. They readied their flaming arrows at Cleopas — the arrow tips were dunk in fuel, now lit in flames.
The man spoke once more, “I will burn your letter, together with you.”
Cleopas’ mind went blank, his stomach was bleeding, he felt he would slip from setting on his blood any time, he had failed his mission.
The changed men and women behind Cleopas formed a human barricade around him, a small child ran to Cleopas and offered his tiny hankerchief to stop the bleeding. Cleopas was in great pain but spared a small smile.
“I can kill all of you. If you leave and return to the city you came from. I will spare you. Choose now which side you will remain.” the middle-statured man spoke, his thumb coldly spinning his revolver’s cylinder.
Cleopas wanted to faint. What if the mass crowd lost faith and left for the former city, all his work would be in vain, the promise the King given was genuine.
The crowd — miraculously — continued to march on. Two men held Cleopas as they hobbled together to the designated destination — together.
The mountaintop archers did not anticipate this and it was their turn to have their faith to be tested, the people below were their own kinsmen, men and women whom they had eaten with, played with since childhood, it was madness all along to go so far as to shoot a flaming arrow to them. They unanimously thought the show of power alone was sufficient to frighten them back to normal. The King’s words were too good to be true…
The crowd sang songs of praise to the King — ever louder — it deafened the middle-statured man, his eyes could not meet theirs, he threw his revolver away and fled the scene — like the coward he was.
The archers — one by one — rappelled down from the mountains, cast their weapons aside and joined the people. They tore away the insignias sewn to their uniforms — they no longer want to dishonour the King, their King.
Just then, as if like clockwork, a massive aircraft cast a shadow upon the land, its buffeting noises reaching to the people below, its landing gear extended as it prepared to land on Shing Mun River.
No one had seen an operating plane for 200 years. Neither did anyone believed anyone could even pilot one.
The massive aircraft landed, having emptied a portion of the stagnant river, its turbines quieted and hatch laid open, several men emerged and flung out long blue ropes to the crowd, in order to reel them in from where they stood, for in between them still laid water of some depth.
Cleopas shoved his satchel to the young child who had faithfully listened to him and held his hand the entire journey, and he spoke his last words, “Hey, take good care of this, when you reach the City, show this to the City guards, and show this to the King. Ok?” Confused and bewildered, the young child continued to bombard Cleopas with questions but he has breathed his last once the men had reeled them in.
The massive aircraft closed its hatch and the pilot began to set its course to return to the Celestial City. The large group of men and women then felt more deeply what debt they owed to the King, their journey had ended. Cleopas had accomplished his mission. They continued to sing praises to their King.