Scene 4 (He suddenly felt he had been here before)

In a continuation of the column 2010 Cinema, this is the fourth in a series of fictional portraits by Hu Fang, each taking the form of loose screen plays.


He suddenly felt he had been here before – he was so familiar with the roads, the terrain, the line of the mountains and the plant life. As he breathed in the fresh air, and gazed into the distance from the mountaintop, the agony of the first time he had been shot dead abruptly surfaced in his mind. He had seen himself struck on the ground, spilling blood, his life index rapidly plunging. Completely transfixed, he could only watch himself die.

He was shaking all over – wanted to shout out – until he lost consciousness and took ill for many days, so that he had no choice but to undergo psychiatric treatment at the army clinic.

Yes, he and his comrades had already acted out this war thousands of times in the hyper-simulation games on their computers, studying how they would respond to the local conditions and testing their mental preparedness. It was no wonder then that they were familiar with every tree and bush, and beyond that even felt a strange affinity and excitement for the place, as though they had arrived in a dream that was still more vivid than a dream. It was as though their coming here was ultimately for the sake of verifying that they were not just boys playing games before their computers, and that they were indeed brave warriors.

It was terribly quiet. With only a slight breeze rustling the tops of the white birch forest, the landscape was so beautiful it could hardly seem to have any connection to war, and this gave him an extraordinary sense of ease.

Perhaps reality would prove that this war was anything but fictional, and the imagined enemies would not appear dressed as they were in the computer game, nor would they take orders from the mouse he once clutched so tensely in his hand. But at least now there was no need to imagine dying: compared to sitting before the computer screen and constantly imagining the agony of getting wounded or killed, dying on the frontline would be almost an absolution.


At first he had only the same mentality as a child who uses an illness to claim the attention of a parent: he used his illness to capture the concern of his friends.

But later, after he discovered his interest in Chinese medicine, and in Buddhism as well, he began willingly exposing himself to viruses, the reason behind which was apparently one of utmost simplicity: if he could accumulate every virus in his body, then as a carrier of all the world’s viruses, he would be connected with “everything” in the world: what Jesus once embraced through his body, he would now embrace through his own.

“Only illness can restore us, and relieve our daily anxieties.”


His parting kiss with the Russian girl had stirred in our hero a peculiar desire.

As a commercials director, he was uncertain when he might have another chance to work with her, but as long as his regular clients had the finances, there was a girl called Katyusha who would be hearing from him, and who would run to his side, because China had already become an alluring land of myths.

Now, when he recalled Katyusha’s kisses cascading upon his cheeks, her fine blond hair brushing his face, he was overwhelmed by a melting sensation, and that old Soviet folk song, Katyusha, echoed in his mind, for it was exactly this song that they had used for the commercial.

Even the language gap only increased her appeal, and her courage and daring in front of the camera had made an indelible impression on him. The moment the lights flashed on, her curvaceous and handsome body had veered toward him, as though to envelope him in an embrace. Over and over, he watched this one segment of the reel, and smelled the scent of her body blended with perfume.

Perhaps they would never meet again, nor would any of those viewers aroused by this spot for the Katyusha Autumn collection ever imagine that lingering sentiment behind the camera lens: Katyusha – Autumn Romance.


Because he had been sitting in place for such a long time, the middle-aged man solitarily flicking through his bills at the foreign exchange counter of the international airport could not help his belly sticking out.

As though reciting a Buddhist scripture, everyday he constantly repeats to himself:

And Wucheng
All those places
You will never be able to go”

Translated from the Chinese by Andrew Maerkle.

Hu Fang is a fiction writer and co-founder of Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou, as well as The Pavilion/the shop, Beijing. His latest book is the novel Garden of Mirrored Flowers (co-published by Sternberg Press and Vitamin Creative Space).

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