Monthly Archives: December 2012

Flash Fiction of the Day: The Moonlit Window

Chinese flash fiction. Minute story. Pocket-size story. Palm-size story. Smoke-Long story.

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Creation myths (Nuwa, Fuxi, Pangu). 350 BC.


In the beginning there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos. However this chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg for about 18,000 years. Within it, the perfectly opposed principles of Yin and Yang became balanced and Pangu emerged (or woke up) from the egg. Pangu is usually depicted as a primitive, hairy giant with horns on his head and clad in furs. Pangu set about the task of creating the world: he separated Yin from Yang with a swing of his giant axe, creating the Earth (murky Yin) and the Sky (clear Yang). To keep them separated, Pangu stood between them and pushed up the Sky. This task took 18,000 years; with each day the sky grew ten feet (3 meters) higher, the Earth ten feet wider, and Pangu ten feet taller. In some versions of the story, Pangu is aided in this task by the four most prominent beasts, namely the Turtle, the Qilin, the Phoenix, and the Dragon.

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After the 18,000 years had elapsed, Pangu was laid to rest. His breath became the wind, mist and clouds; his voice the thunder; left eye the sun and right eye the moon; his head became the mountains and extremes of the world; his blood formed rivers; his muscles the fertile lands; his facial hair the stars and milky way; his fur the bushes and forests; his bones the valuable minerals; his bone marrows sacred diamonds; his sweat fell as rain; and the fleas on his fur carried by the wind became the fish and animals throughout the land. Nüwa the Goddess then used the mud of the water bed to form the shape of humans. These humans were very smart since they were individually crafted. Nüwa then became bored of individually making every human so she started putting a rope in the water bed and letting the drops of mud that fell from it become new humans. These small drops became new humans, not as smart as the first.

But let’s look at a more contemporary flash fiction, “The Moonlit Window” by Deng Kaishang.

Who is Deng Kaishang? All I know is that he is president of the Writer’s Association of Hunan Province. He might like cheese, but I doubt it. He is a good man.

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The moon, pale as jade, peeked from behind translucent clouds, drifted in through delicate window, and fell onto the small writing desk in the room. The tenant’s exquisite writing brush, breathing in the fragrance of fresh ink, rested on a small, finely-carved wood stand.

Five water chestnuts. No, four and a half, to be more exact: one of them having been bitten in half by the tenant. The remaining half, its stem still intact, lay upright on the small desk. Basking in the pale, pure moonlight, it looked like a miniature pyramid.

A small piece of square-shaped marble, exquisite, pure as a beam of frozen moonlight. Underneath the rock was a stack of manuscript paper, words written in graceful penmanship, its title: “Revision Suggestions for On Spring Vistas in Mountainous Villages (Three Volumes).”

Underneath the stack of manuscript paper was a family letter, which cracked visibly somewhere along the lines where it had been folded; the V-shaped rupture rippled with moonlight, shiny like a dagger. The visible portion of the letter showed words written with both resolve and feminine sensitivity:

Full moon beaming in the sky, stars sailing to the west, but woe welling up in my heart: A full moon is not good as a full family! ‘Once a couple, forever a couple,’ and we had that ‘once’ for 12 years! My conscience , a woman’s conscience, tortures my soul to this very day that we have been washed apart by the currents of life. My soul cried in pain; my soul is bleeding. Oh, let’s get married again! I beseech you. the only thing I will ask of you is to quit this editor’s job. What did you get in return for ‘making bridal dresses’ for others for half your life? Ten years of cold wind and rain, a head of frosty hair. So listen to me this time!

The letter closed with: “I beg you to stop smoking!” In a corner of the letter were two red, bean-sized marks: two drops of blood having soaked deep into the paper. Next to them was a line from the tenant after reading the letter: “Endless will flow this feeling of love!” It was taken from Bayi Juyi’s poem “Endless Sorrow;” only that the tenant had replaced “sorrow” with “love.”

A gentle breeze murmured a serenade. It drifted into the moonlit window, caressed a sheet of manuscript paper, the ink on which was still fresh, and dropped on it a strand of frosty hair. The page number read: 109.

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Odd. So many jump cuts, so many ways the writer places your eye then darts your eye, location to location, information to information. Dizzying. Allusions. Writings about writing. What in the hell is page 109 about? Mystery. There’s some deliciously mysterious about this flash fiction. That’s what I admire. More and more, I don’t want answers. This flash seems an immersion. A prime example of mood. Of repetition. Of the agonies of communication, miscommunication. This piece almost seems to me to exist in saturation. It caught a shard of the un-catchable, the unknowable. Exquisite, in its attempt, in its form.