The Path to Freedom

written by Tang Fei, translated by Xueting Christine Ni

“Imagining the worst tomorrow makes me happy.
The gloom of the future lights my path.”

ONE

The children’s laughter penetrated the walls. They were playing in the garden downstairs. I never opened the curtains. For the last few decades, since Grandmother moved here, the windows had been blocked up. The curtains, however, still hung in place, as though to remind us that there had once been a window.

Other sounds came through from outside. Footsteps, heartbeats, breathing. Crystal clear. As clear as the fall of the cold night rain on the roof. It is amidst these sounds that our old apartment glides down with us into the depths of endless silence. A silence that almost no one can bear.

I was born in this building, and grew up in its shelter. This top floor apartment, barely 70 square metres in size, had been converted by Grandmother way back when my father was still a child. Temperature stabilisation, noise insulation, and – most importantly – a synthetic rubber “Smart Membrane” permanently filtering the heavily polluted air. At the time, the Membrane had only just been developed by a top-secret research group, and was still at the testing stage. No one knew how she managed to get hold of these materials without ever once setting foot outside her door.

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