The Scarf

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
Lihong: cold, cold, the coldness of hell. How they walked on the roads together, Libei with Lihua curled between sore breasts, Lihua wound up in the scarf. Sometimes Lihong carried Lihua. But she was jealous of Lihua. A skinny girl of 14, too small, with breasts of her own. Lihong wanted to be wrapped in a scarf, hidden away, asleep, rocked by the march, a baby, a round infant in arms. There was not enough milk; sometimes Lihua sucked air; then she screamed, Lihua was starving. Her knees were tumors on sticks; her elbows were like chicken bones. She said: "我操他娘的,我要饿死了! I'm freaking ravenous!" This happened on April 3rd, 1937.
Libei did not feel hunger; she felt light, not like someone walking but like someone in a faint trance, and someone who is already a floating angel, alert and seeing everything, but in the air, not there, not touching the road. She looked into Lihua's face through a gap in the scarf: a squirrel in a nest, no one could reach her inside the little house of the scarf's protection. The face was very round, a tiny adorable face, but it was not Libei's desolate complexion, dark like chocolate. It was another kind of face altogether, eyes blue as the ocean, smooth feathers of hair nearly as yellow as the sunflower. You could think she was one of their babies.
Libei, floating, dreamed of giving Lihua away in one of the villages. "小鬼子闷追上来了,这小东西对我来说是一个负担 Japanese devils are catching up, this little thing will be a burden to me." She could leave the line for a minute and push Lihua into the hands of any woman on the side of the road. But if she moved out of the line, those freaking Japanese might shoot her. And even if she fled the line for half a second pushed the scarf bundle at a stranger, would they take it? Strangers might be surprised or afraid they might drop the scarf, and Lihua would fall out and strike her head and die. The tiny delicate head, such a good child, she gave up screaming and sucked only for the taste of the drying nipple on her own-the neat grip of the tiny gums. After a while, without complaining, Lihua relinquished Libei's nipple, first the left, then the right; both were cracked, not a sniff of milk. It's like a dead volcano, which does not have enough energy to spurt out the liquid. Therefore, Lihua took the corner of the scarf and milked it instead. She sucked and sucked, and she was flooding the threads with saliva: the scarf's good flavor, milk of linen.
It was a magic scarf; it could nourish an infant for four days and four nights. Although Lihua was very quiet, she didn't die; she stayed alive. A peculiar smell of cinnamon and nuts lifted out of her mouth. She held her eyes open every moment, forgetting how to blink or nap, and Libei and sometimes Lihong studied their blueness. On the road, they raised one burden of a leg after another and studied Lihua's face. "Angel'' Lihua said, in a voice grown as thin as a string; and Libei thought how Lihong gazed at Lihua like a cannibal, And the time that Lihong said "Angel," which sounded to Libei as if Lihong had really said, "let us wolf down her."
But Lihua lived to walk. She lived that long, but she did not walk very well, partly because she was only fifteen months old and somewhat because the bones of her legs could not hold up her fat belly. It was plump with air, full and round Bibei gave almost all her food to Lihua, Lihong gave nothing; Lihong was ravenous, a growing child herself, but not growing much. Lihong did not menstruate. Libei did not as well; Libei was greedy and not; she learned from Lihua how to drink the taste of a finger in one's mouth. They were in a place without pity. Libei looked at Lihong's bones without pity. She was sure that Lihong was waiting for Lihua to die so she could have a big meal.
Libei knew Lihua was going to die very soon; she should have been dead already, but she was deep inside of the scarf. Libei clung to the scarf as if it covered only herself. No one took it away from her. Lihua was mute. She never cried. Libei hid her in the barracks, under the scarf, but she knew that one day someone would inform; or one day someone, not even Lihong, would steal Lihua and eat her. Now, Libei was afraid to fall asleep; she slept beside Lihua's body.
Lihua was quiet, but her eyes were diving. She watched, sometimes she laughed-it seamed a laugh, but how could it be? Lihua had never seen any laugh; she must be a genius. When the wind blew, this made Lihong's and Libei's eyes tear. Lihua's eyes were always clear and tearless. She guarded her scarf. Except for Libei, no one could touch it.
Then, Lihong tried her best to push, and she attempted to push Libei. Wolves were howling under the pale firmament. For the first time, Lihua cried; it was a grieved crying; Libei did not have the energy to fight back, so she let Lihong take Lihua away.
Chapter 2
When Lihong took Lihua, she took off her scarf and it made Lihua die. "I'm frozen," Lihong said coldly. After that, she was always very cold; the coldness went into her heart; Libei saw that Lihong's heart was cold.
"Is that what you want? What a greedy woman you are!" Libei uttered.
Lihong spotted Lihua's body. She grinned evasively and cleared her throat. Libei could how urgent she was with her ambitions desires. Then lihong bent down and picked up a sharp knife which had been drooped on the ground by someone else. She cut Lihua open; the blood was pouring out, it was dropping all over the ground. Lihong drank Lihua's tepid blood. She devoured the poor tiny infant's organs. The liver, the lungs, the heart, and the kidneys; the tiny stiff corpse had all become Lihong's superb meal.
Libei's lips had stretched all the way back to her neck, spit bubbles formed and popped on the surface of her clenched teeth. She made quick, little hissing sounds. Libei could not believe what she had seen. Lihong turned her gaze onto Libei, who tried to avoid Lihong's gaze. Yet, Libei was not buffered from Lihong's penetrating eyes. Her hair was hanging around her face in strange curls. No matter how much she breathed in and out, it seemed to Libei that she couldn't fill her lungs with enough air. Libei was standing there stiffly; she didn't dare move a muscle. They continued to march; they spotted other people along the way. They were starving as well.
It is time to kill Libei now, Lihong thought. Lihong went to Libei's side with a knife in her right hand. Libei saw that as well. She stood up; then, the battle started. They crashed to the ground, Lihong, and Libei, thrashing each other. Lihong ended up on the top, her hands already wrapped around Libei's neck. Lihong meant to suffocate her, and Libei struck Lihong with the rock. However, Lihong got a knife. So, Lihong stabbed Libei. The moan came out from Libei's mouth. She died. Lihong's upper lip curled back into a spiteful sneer.
Afterward, she ate Libei's cadaver. The liver, the lung, the heart, and the kidney. She chopped Libei's hands and feet.
However, she felt shame; she thought she was a guilty person. Brief little bursts of blinding light before her eyes now, like silver stars exploding. Bizarre geometric forms in the light, worms, egg-shaped things, moving up and down, sideways, melting into each other, breaking apart, morphing into something else, then fading, giving way to blackness. A Japanese soldier caught her, and he shot Lihong down. Lihong died under this chilly, lonely, and pale firmament. Her body was wrapped by the scarf. At least, she died with the scarf