Then, with a gentle breeze wafting across the tree tops, it commenced.
A fine brocade of waters in the last rays of twilight did the wind weave; crickets chirped, a stork on the opposite shore croaked when the wind moaned. And there he sat, a pine needle atop frigid mountain waters.
The trees swayed.
Strident winds scared clouds into flight as sunset hurried the night to shadow. Like an abraded sing-song girl beyond her ripe, a smeared ghost of a cloud loitered around a cadaverous moon. One by one did the stars appear when Lu Pan, spilling his celestial inkwell across the sky, groaned his disdain deep in the east. Huddled in his overcoat, Jen, supine atop dew dappled grasses, watched fireflies, out-twinkling the stars themselves, engage their nightly courtships.
A heavy thunder to the east—perhaps Lei Kung, that bearer of hammer and chisel, had commissioned a painting from Lu Pan, and saw he’d spilled his ink across the scroll. Oh, that Lei Kung so quick to anger; Jen shook his head and smiled.
Thick dew turned to fine mist. One by one the stars dwindled, outlasted by even those radiant insects born to decay. Rise did the fine mist into a fog; like lamps of distant fishing boats did the fuzzy fireflies phosphoresce.
Jen tested his rice: solid. He dumped it on the ground. He patted his coat. Damp. A bird cried out from somewhere when Lei Kung stirred his wrath. Jen stepped inside and lay down, his hands under his head, atop an old musty straw mattress just in time. Much as the stars had shown themselves, the rain fell upon the thatched roof one drop at a time. A riotous uproar in the hermitage; Jen turned to his side.
Lu Pan must have asked Yu Shih to help clean up his mess for water poured from Heaven. Lei Kung roared again—it didn’t help. He ordered more water.
And more water.
Feng Shi, that master of the bow and arrow, must have heard the ruckus for he screamed and howled. Lei Kung stomped the floor and battered the walls of his celestial palace. Jen shook his head again, smirked as he listened to their petty squabbles. So quick to anger did Lei Kung and Feng Shi rise ever since their failed revolt against the Yellow Emperor. The earth shook, and Jen remembered: Feng Shi hesitated not to destroy. Jen frowned. Selfish. Selfish gods who cared nothing for the sorrows they caused. Lei Kung, hammer in hand, brutalized his chisel and jagged sparks obliterated the black sky.
The pine and cypress threw their arms in the air, pleading with the gods; they flailed, prostrating before them. But the gods didn’t care. Of course they didn’t care. They tore needles and leaves from scattered shrubs. Feng Shi picked them up in piles and flung them in disgust. The little room shook. The roof shifted, creaked, sighed heavy, and sagged. Shoving himself into the corner, Jen tucked his knees under his chin and tried, with all his might, to stop shaking.
Then it ended. Fast and hard it ended. Perhaps once again the Yellow Emperor terminated their tantrums and sent them to their rooms. Jen held his hands in front of him; still they trembled. The sound, soft sound of water. He looked to the instillating roof. Another drip. Yet another. And again, the pitter-pattering dampened now. Drip drop, drip drop. Oh shit. He palmed the mattress. Wet. He dragged it to the opposite corner, lay down, and twisted his body around the wet spots. Drip drop, drip drop upon the floor. He flipped to his left side, turned at once to the right. Drip drop, drip drop.
Torture. Water torture.
Coiling, griping, twisting and turning and knotting, his intestines took the same labyrinthine path by which he’d traversed the Valley of the Yellow Dragon. He cringed and, whimpering like a dog bopped on the nose, brought his knees to his chest. A snake just emerged from its egg, Jen writhed, adding his sorrows to those of the beaten trees.
Ten thousand sorrows strong.