Chapter 152: Nan Tang Village from the Past
“Meeping… Gibbering… Meeping…”
Inside the silent morgue, Gu Jun’s hands pressed heavily against the edge of the autopsy table. A low and strange whispering kept channeling into his mind. It was unclear where it came from, but it was getting louder, like phantoms sharing their conspiracies with him.
“Leave him.” Wu Siyu stopped everyone from approaching Gu Jun. She knew the signs. The illusion was coming. “He needs to do this. Don’t worry, I’ll keep a close eye on him.”
This language… appeared to be made up of only two strange words. Like how zero and one could construct anything in coding, the different intonation and combination of these two terms could signify different meanings as well. Gu Jun’s brain was splitting, but he allowed himself to be carried along by the lullaby of the zombie language. If not for the rejuvenation provided by the autopsy earlier, he might not have been able to support this illusion. Tuning into the voices, the illusions were slowly coming into focus as they threatened to drown him.
A dark, oppressive sky and bone-chilling wind. Gu Jun felt himself transported into another person’s mind. He looked around and realized he was crouching on top of a large old tree… The moonlight was hazy, casting a weak light on his surroundings. Gu Jun could not tell for sure, but he seemed to notice sporadic squat mud houses down the distance. In any case, there was no building over three stories tall, and there was no concrete building. The houses were constructed from primitive materials. The roofs were made up of either black roof tiles or dry straw. He was definitely not within the vicinity of urbanization. The roads were equally unkempt, obstructed by overgrown grass and trees. There were no asphalt paths, only muddy tracks. There was no trace of anything modern like electricity poles. The mountain range around him seemed to close in on him.
As much as things had changed, Gu Jun still managed to identify this place from its geographical features. He was at… Nan Tang Village! Or at least Nan Tang Village several decades ago…
‘Wait, this perspective of mine…’ Something came to him. ‘Am I inside Chen Shu’s mind?’
Eighty years ago, Chen Shu was about the age of a teenager. He was hiding in a tree when he spotted a strange ritual being performed at Ol’ Uncle Dog’s family yard…
‘That must be where Ol’ Uncle Dog’s family is situated.’
Even though the tree had been chopped down later, Gu Jun could still tell the direction since Ol’ Uncle Dog’s family was living at the foot of the mountain. Other than that, the strange voices were also coming from that same direction. However, Gu Jun had a hard time differentiating whether this was the voices in his mind, or this was the recreation of the ‘strange mumbling’ mentioned by Chen Shu. In any case, according to Chen Shu, after he saw the dark shadow, he hid in the tree and turned away from fear.
Even though Gu Jun could not technically force Chen Shu to turn around, he could at least turn his mind’s eyes toward the direction of Ol’ Uncle Dog’s yard. Gu Jun peered through the gaps in the foliage. He saw that in the plot of land that had been levelled centuries later, there were several mud huts and sheds that were built in a circle. There was a sizable yard in the middle. With the candlelight and moonlight, Gu Jun could make out about ten people gathered around the yard. They were mumbling something. One of the gathered figures jumped out at him… It was Ol’ Uncle Dog.
Surrounded by them was a blurry black pool of shadow. Gu Jun only took a swift at it before he felt a headache threatening to split open his brain. The shadow did not appear corporeal. It was like a ball floating in the void. It was both real and false. Gu Jun could not help but ask, did it really exist? But Gu Jun could feel the thing sucking in the energy and heat around it.
“Meeping… Gibbering…” Ol’ Uncle Dog and his clan continued to chant in that strange language. The black shadow appeared to slowly grow inside…
Gu Jun felt the chill running down his bones. Chen Shu said that when he returned home the next day, all the livestock in the village had perished. Was it during this moment that the mental power of the livestock was sucked out of their corporeal bodies? Leaving their empty husks behind? But how come it did not affect any of the villagers?
Suddenly, the chill reached out to claw at Gu Jun’s heart. The intense pain cleared up the darkness of his vision. He saw four figures walking around the muddy tracks around the village. One of them was Chen Defa. The other three were probably the villagers whose graves were disturbed decades later. They were each holding a long bamboo pole as they walked past each of the villagers’ homes. They would use them to knock on the wooden windows…
Tap tap tap.
Soon, the village roads were filled with many moving figures. They were the villagers. They walked out of their homes expressionlessly. They appeared to be sleep-walking as they followed Chen Defa and the other three. Everyone—be it the young, the old, the male, the female—was marching in unison, although plodding would be a more suitable term considering their weak and slow gait…
The strange voices turned up like they were summoning something. The village of several hundred people soon gathered around Ol’ Uncle Dog’s home. They knelt on the ground, and strange moaning came out of their mouths, but Gu Jun was sure it was not the zombie language. It sounded more like the hoarse braying of the beasts. Chen Defa and the other three walked into the yard. So, it turned out every single villager in Nan Tang Village had participated in this ritual. They just did not realize it. They had been swindled by illusions. That begged the question, what actually was the venison that they had feasted on?
Seeing all this, Gu Jun’s headache worsened. It got so serious that the illusions had started to waver. It was also then that he sniffed a certain stench in the air. It was the smell of putrefaction, specifically coming from bloated corpses. But last he checked, there was no sign of those, not in the yard, not in the village.
“Meeping… Gibbering…” Chen Defa’s group joined Ol’ Uncle Dog’s family and started to chant that strange language. Their wrinkled faces had shed their usual senility. Instead, it was replaced by a kind of frenetic madness. They appeared even more fanatic than Ol’ Uncle Dog’s family. The chanting in the yard rose louder and faster until they suddenly stopped all at once. The walking dead of the villagers suddenly whipped their heads around to look at the big tree. Their eyes were glassy and lifeless.
“You have arrived.” They began to speak. The voices of several hundred people mixed into a simple affirmation. It was the same statement that Ol’ Uncle Dog had told him when he found himself on the nightmarish island. ‘You have arrived…’
Suddenly, a jolt of pain gripped Chen Ge’s heart. The illusion before his eyes shattered. He groaned in pain and almost collapsed onto the table. Uncle Dan and Cai Zixuan immediately rushed over to catch him. Wang Ruoxiang asked with concern, “Are you alright?”
“Ah.” Wu Siyu sighed in relief. She appeared to be unfazed by the way Gu Jun had reacted. “He’s fine, don’t worry about him.”
Then she went back to her couch and planted herself back down.
“Just give me some rest, and I’ll be fine…” Gu Jun allowed them to carry him to a tall stool while he tried to dissect the illusion that he had seen. While he was catching his breath, a call came into Uncle Dan’s communicator. He answered it, and then his face darkened. He turned to Gu Jun. “Ah Jun, the elder from Nan Tang Village, Chen Shu, has just passed away.”
“What‽” Gu Jun felt his heart squeeze with tension. Even though Chen Shu was already at the advanced age of ninety-five, he was still in sound mind and body. He cooperated fully the whole time he was placed at Phecda. Even the people at the Medical Department were impressed by the senior’s health. Some of them even approached him to ask for the secret of his longevity, earning some guffaws from the friendly old man.
“It happened when you were in the wraps of the illusion,” Uncle Dan said sadly. “Chen Shu was suddenly overcome by a hallucination, and he screamed in extreme terror. He kept on repeating the statement, ‘I didn’t see anything!’ His heart stopped, and they failed to rescue him. It is sad that it had to end like this, but ninety-five years should have provided him with a very fulfilling life already…”
Gu Jun took a deep breath silently. He closed his eyes and his brows creased. As darkness enveloped his world. A ball of rage and indignation burned within him.