Death knell

Death knell

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Death knell_L
Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen
I never thought things would turn out like they did, not in my wildest dreams.

It was a hot day in the middle of summer. Shek O beach was flooded with people who were there to feel the warmth of the sun.

Of course, there were also young girls in bikinis, and as I lay there on a beach chair, sipping my iced cola, I couldn't help but take a peek.

The wind was whispering lightly in my ears, and sounds of the waves gently hitting the shore created pleasurable melodies.

I was there trying to escape the cruel pressure of reality, but with the sand beneath my feet, it seemed as if life was always great.

I closed my eyes and, unwittingly, drifted off into blissful sleep ...

"Help me ... take me away with you ..."

Through the thick mist, I could see the face of a young blond girl, her hands reaching out towards me in vain. Tears flowed from her azure eyes and it seemed the excruciating expression on her face would never fade away. I yelled to her to come back, but to no avail. Instead, she slowly drifted away, vanishing into the thick, opaque mist, carrying her torturous sadness with her ...

I woke up, no longer blissful. Despite the fact that I had never seen the girl before, my dream had plunged me into the depths of hell. But was it a dream? It had felt unusually real.

I peered out to sea, into the distance. Something felt strange and I wondered if I was hallucinating. Then I noticed that the people around me had disappeared, the sun was nowhere to be seen and the sky had turned dark.

A girl, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, was staring at the horizon as she walked deeper and deeper into the sea. She looked like the girl from my "dream". The weirdness of the situation caused me to get up and run towards her.

Although her face was pale, she was definitely the same girl. "Are you okay?" I asked.

When she didn't reply, I questioned her again. "Where are you going?"

"I don't know, but somebody is calling me," she answered softly.

Her blue eyes shimmered under the darkening skies as she just kept on walking, the water now up to her shoulders.

"Hey, stop, you'll drown!" I yelled.

However, she didn't stop but continued until she was totally submerged. I reached under the water to pull her to safety but my hands found nothing. She was just ... gone.

As I gazed at the spot where she had disappeared, a strangely familiar voice suddenly rang out: "Curiosity killed the cat."

Chills ran down my spine.

Then the strong undertow began to pull me down. There was nothing I could do to escape, no matter how much I struggled. I held my breath but I knew I wouldn't last long under water. I blamed myself for following the girl.

Closing my eyes, I let the monstrous current toss me to and fro until I slowly lost consciousness.

I saw her again, her blond hair shimmering in the moonlight as she walked. I was in a forest of trees that reached to the skies. Despite the darkness and the heavy mist, I could still just about see her face. I realised there was something strange about the moon - it was red. In this crimson light, it seemed her angelic face was stained with tears of blood.

As I chased after her, the mist thickened and blocked my view. I yelled, "What is your name?"

Just before she disappeared, she turned and spoke to me, her voice echoing and fading into the wall of fog. "Alice ..."

When I woke again, I was horribly confused: I was once more lying on the beach. While strips of lightening lit up the dark sky, the moon was the same blood-like red I'd seen in my dreams.

Around me the beach looked different. I was still alone, but the parasols had now disappeared and the car park behind the beach was also gone, replaced by towering trees. At that moment, a loud yelp came from the depths of this forest. I felt I had to go and investigate.

As I entered the wall of trees, I paid meticulous attention to my every step, fearing I could vanish in an instant. Guided by the moonlight, I passed mould-covered rocks and tall grass. I sensed creatures staring at me as I walked; I could feel their rage and hatred. But I continued until I reached a clearing.

There, in the middle of that open space, was an altar covered in carved symbols. On it stood a huge crucifix. And Alice was there. Her clothes were stained with blood, and her face was pale and distorted by pain as she cried.

Suddenly I became aware of a man dressed in a cloak, standing in the shadows. I couldn't see the man's face clearly, but I was sure he was responsible for Alice's pain.

When she cried out again, I couldn't stand it anymore. However, as I rushed towards her, vines rose from the ground, wrapping around my legs.

The man turned to me. "I thought I'd warned you already," he said.

I shuddered in fear; it was the same voice I'd heard in the sea.

"Release her!" I yelled.

He walked into the moonlight. "I won't do that - although I never expected you to come." When I saw his face, I was stunned: he looked exactly like me. I was puzzled. I was terrified. I was enraged.

"Who are you?" I demanded.

"I am ... earth. Or rather what you humans call ... God."

I was speechless. I had never imagined I would meet the Messiah, or he would look like this.

He continued, "I am the one who created life on this planet. I created you, Bryan."

"Impossible," I muttered.

"Then let me show you," he said. He flicked his fingers and suddenly he was another person ... Alice.

I looked at the real Alice behind "her" and she was still suffering. Yet her double was charming; her azure eyes sparkling as I looked into them.

I shook my head. "If you truly are God, why do you make Alice suffer?"

"It is because of you!" he boomed. "You humans have been destroying me. This planet is my body, and you have been eating away at my liver, my intestines, my heart, my lungs. When you were on your way to this altar, didn't you feel millions of pairs of eyes upon you, all full of hatred? Those eyes belong to the spirits of the animals you humans slay every day."

As I listened, I felt overwhelmed by guilt.

"Before the so-called 'industrial revolution', you and I lived in harmony. But now your unlimited greed has worn me out."

He showed me a huge wound in the palm of his hand.

"This is the hole in the ozone layer, and it will take a further hundred years to heal. I will need many human souls to replenish what you have taken. I will take the vital life force from those who do not believe in me."

I could no longer suppress the rage that had been welling up in me. Even if I was going to die, I needed to tell him. "What is the difference between you and a murderer? Taking innocent people's lives so you can feel better is an unforgivable crime!"

Tears flowed down my cheeks. "I know we are the ones who are at fault, but human lives are also invaluable. No one should be sent to hell, to scream where no one can hear them."

He tried to argue but I kept going, "Don't you feel any compassion for Alice? Look how you've mistreated and tortured her! Shame on you!"

God sighed. "So Bryan, what do you suggest I do?"

"We humans have realised we have been damaging the environment, and now we are doing our best to save it. I promise we will not be as extravagant as before. Everyone deserves a second chance. You should only punish those who are not willing to change."

He smiled. "Wise words, human. But you have now taken on the responsibility of changing the world. I shall return two years from now, on December 21, to see whether you humans have improved." He looked at Alice. "Take this girl with you back to your world." He clicked his fingers and the chains fell from Alice. She was free.

I took her hand and we walked back to the shore. As we reached the beach, a strange drowsiness came over me.

When I woke for the third time, I felt the familiar warmth of the sun. Beside me, Alice sat with tears of happiness running down her face.

Fellow humans, I believe we must learn from my experience. This is our earth, and it is what holds us together.

Bryan, 15, is a student at King's College

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