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U3A Writing: Mee Sing

Astra Warren tells of a young Chinese girl's dream to go to the big city - a story based on an experience during a trip to China.

A distant vibration began far away. It grew gently until it was a
noise, a thunder which filled the throbbing space of earth and sky.

It invaded her sleep as it did every week at this time, her waiting mind waking to the great sound; a hissing now as the
thunder diminuendoed, a pause wth tremors palpable along the
nerves. Then the rising crescendo as the sound built again to
maximum, fading oh so slowly as the great machine rolled away over the plain like a behemoth ploughing its furrow across this great land of hers.

Mee Sing lay on her hard pallet on the sleeping platform, back
pressed to the clay brick stove, straining her ears until she could hear no more sound and the silence of blanketing
emptiness settled between earth and sky. She had never seen the great machine, but imagined the people as ants inside, trying to find corners to settle themselves with baskets and babies, crying children and crates, for the long hours until the train reached Beijing.

One night, when she had imagined through all the ideas that boiled in her mind, and when she had worked enough rice to save the money, she would go to the stopping place and board the train, mingling with the crowd of skinny bodies topped with almost identical black-haired heads, to be carried away to the city of crowded streets and tangled lives, and find out if her imaginings were true.

"I've never before wanted anything so much," she thought - not even when baby brother died last year and she fancied she
could bring him back to life just by willing it so. She had never
speculated what might happen to her once she reached the big city; there was nothing in her life's experience to make a basis for those imaginings. It was enough to anticipate the exquisite satisfaction of achieving this one aim which had occupied her mind for so many years, like a view across forever.

Turning over so that her other side was pressed close to the cooling stove, she listened to the familiar sounds of her
parents' regular breathing, part of the peaceful rhythm of her life, even if father sometimes muttered and spoke in his old peasant language, angry tones as if voicing resentment against the oppressive work system he dare not criticize openly during the day.

Older brother lay close to a third side of the stove. Long ago, his birth had been difficult: his skull compressed as he left his mother's body. His damaged brain would never crave change and bright lights, but his body was strong. Hard work and enough to eat were the limits of his world.

Light began to seep through cracks in the mud brick walls, dawn light, creeping west across the flat immensity of the
Gobi. Mee Sing's dreams were fading as the pearl glow increased.

Outside were the paddies waiting for their human slaves, water to be fetched, pigs to be fed, life again reduced to this. Only this.

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