Old Shanghai was dying, losing between three and six streets a day. The modern city was strangling it among its many skyscrapers. Soon, in a few years at most, it will have disappeared. Yet, through... [+]
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The stallion pounded the ground with its hooves in a wild gallop, its horsewoman leaning over its neck. With no saddle or bit, the mount flew free, its mane in the wind.
Nighttime enveloped the world in its dark mantle. The moon, blond and round, continued its path, an imperturbable curve from west to east, from one mountain to another.
The shadows crawled along, raced along, almost swallowing the bare feet of the stallion who thrust a bit farther ahead, the woman clasping the horsehair tangled in her fingers. With sweat running down her back and along her forehead, she panted, determination in her eyes that were aimed straight ahead. For them, rest was forbidden. They would have to run tirelessly, for eternity, never stopping, to flee the shadows.
Suddenly, a glimmer, a promise, in the distance. The woman smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek. The stallion slowed down, the shadows withdrew bit by bit. Beyond the eastern mountains, a timid ray greeted them. The stallion stopped and began grazing, the woman sliding down from his back and wrapping her arms around her mount's glistening neck. Her nose in its thick mane, her hands in its hot coat, she cried all the tears she had.
The stallion lifted his head and lay down on the ground, and the woman reclined next to him. His breathing became calmer. He pulled his hooves underneath him and placed his heavy head on the knees of his mournful companion. A new ray of light dispelled the shadows, another dispelled the night. And as dawn kept its promises, the stallion breathed his last.
The body became heavier on the woman's knees and slowly dissipated, swept away by an invisible breeze. In its place, fine mist, undulating, soon reconstituted the body of a man, quite alive and smiling. Standing up, he grasped the hands of his beloved, took her face between his fingers and kissed her lips. He kissed her damp cheeks, her wet eyelids, caressed her tangled hair, and brought her aching body against his own. Embracing, the lovers loved each another for the few minutes that dawn promised them every day of their curse, before the day would tear them from each other once again.
In his powerful arms, his companion suddenly writhed in pain, thrusting her head back, her mouth open with a cry that never came. The man held her firmly against him, shaking in turn with bitter tears, whispering reassuring words, declaring his unfailing love. While the sun appeared completely above the mountains, the woman's body slackened entirely and collapsed, inert, against her lover. A thick fog enveloped them and carried off the woman's body. Sighing, the man got back up on his still weak legs, his gaze lost in the mist embracing him. Steps approached, four regular beats. A snort, a warm breath against his hand, and the man gave a faint smile. The mare put her nostrils against the man's chest. He grabbed a fistful of horsehair and jumped onto the animal's back. Far off, voices rose in the fog. Soon torches and pitchforks emerged, threatening. The couple went on their way again, following the sun's path, an imperturbable curve from east to west, from one mountain to another.