Changing History

Changing History

Two sisters struggle to make sure Hong Kong's present and future doesn't rewrite the past. This story was written by Adan Chew, a 15-year-old student at Heep Yunn School


Illustration: Ken Cheng/SCMP

This is one of the finalists from Young Post's 2015 Short Story competition. The stories will run each week through the winter holidays, with the winning entry being published on April 2

The days slowly slip into darkness. The horizon is no longer covered by looming buildings, but with debris and cries of desolation.

I dawdle towards Tung Chung station. The road signs have all collapsed and the bridge is covered with scarred rocks. Infernos have swallowed the buildings. The shopping malls have been turned into refugee camps.

I tug my scarf closer, hiding my face from the refugees that beg for food. As I enter the station, I look at the dented gates, destroyed by the protest yesterday against rising MTR fees. I slip over the gate, my hand realising that I do not have to reach for my Octopus card. I run down the stairs to the trains and finally see a familiar silhouette.

"Zaza!" I call. My voice echoes palely through the platform as the figure turns around.

"Electo!" My sister's voice rings clearly. "The train is here, so you'd better hurry!" She speeds inside the carriage.

I sprint onto the train instinctively.

"Do you have it with you?" she asks me in a hushed tone.

I nod.

To keep our spirits high, I grab a handrail and swing around. Zaza chuckles.

"Gosh, why is the handle so sticky?" I ask.

She laughs. "Bwahaha, it's a piece of gum!" she says as she points to the piece of chewing gum stuck on my finger.

I pucker my lips.

Her tone shifts into a lower one. "The MTR hasn't bothered to clean up the trash here ever since they overthrew the government. It's pretty worrying, but I guess they don't have enough capital now to keep things in place."

We sit down and start chattering like monkeys.

"The next s ... station i ... s Hong Kong. The do ... ors will ope ... n on the lef ... t." The speaker crackles. The doors open as the train halts on the platform.

"Let's go," she says and heads towards the exit.

"We're supposed to transit to Wan Chai here ..."

"Nah, they've raided the Island Line already. Look across. We'll have to go on foot," she declares. We emerge above ground and head to Wan Chai. The wide streets are littered and deserted. I slip my hands into my pockets. Most of the looming shadows of the buildings have disappeared. They were knocked down by the Darkists.

"Come on, Electo, no time to admire these landmarks. We don't have all day," Zaza says. She pulls my hand and me away from the desolate debris.

My eyes narrow. "It's important that we remember them," I snap.

The book our father had given me weighs heavy in my inside pocket. It was one of the few remaining books that told an accurate history of Hong Kong. If the Darkists got their hands on it, they could destroy it, and rewrite history as they saw fit. Now, more than ever, it was important to remember who we were and where we came from. That was exactly what we hoped to do today: go in and meet some of the resistance group in the red building and show them the book, to prove that our city's past was not lost.

We continue to walk briskly along the alleyways of Hong Kong. The cold north wind hurries our journey, but there is nobody to compete with the pace of our footsteps.

The two lions that are seated majestically in front of the HSBC building come into sight. I am overjoyed to see something that is actually still in one piece. I run over quickly, to touch the bullet holes on the lion, my heart silently saluting the bravery of the twin beasts.

"We have a picture of us riding the lions at home, Electo," my sister mutters. "There's gum on there as well!" she points out.

We trudge on in the bitter cold; my sister's arm wrapped around my shivering shoulders, and we finally arrive at the central Darkist Camp - Admiralty.

Making our way to Queensway, we can already smell the burning of buildings and hear the smashing of the glass. The Darkists are swiftly tearing this city apart, brick by brick. Their camps are scattered like litter in Admiralty, and their slogans are held up high by their voices.

As we step into the vicinity, Zaza hugs me closer and gives me her hat. I slide it on my head, my senses heightening. Zaza bends her head low and walks quickly into the campsite.

"Come on, Electo," she whispers. "Keep your head low." I shift closer to her and inhale deeply.

A built man to our left punches a girl when she drops his coffee cup.

I draw in a sharp breath. My sister takes a turn down the next street. She hushes me after I stifle a shout.

"Hey!" a voice behind us calls in our direction. "Hey! You two, stop."

I momentarily freeze. Zaza pulls me along, speeding up.

"Hey!" The voice echoes with growing hostility. "Stop right there, you two!" the deep voice booms.

I look around, eyes wide with anxiety. The calling attracted a lot of attention. I can feel all eyes on us.

"Stop them! Show yourselves!" The voice bellows again.

Something hard hits me. And another. And another. Are they rocks? I don't know.

"Run now, Electo!" Zaza exclaims behind me, panting. "Don't let them have it! Get to the red building!"

I feel my sister throw her thick coat onto my shoulders.

"Zaza -"

"Go!" She shoves me harder than she ever has before. Her voice is cut off quickly.

It is the first time I've ever listened to her properly, too. I leap forth, and push my body with all the remaining strength, and gallop towards that red building which feels like a sky's length away.

I wrap the red coat tightly on my shoulders and take in my sister's heartwarming scent. I don't dare look back.

I run and run, over the long bridge, feeling the hard pebbles slamming onto my body again and again. The pounding of my heart silences the screams of terror in my ears.

Panting hard, I look over my shoulder, peering back at the enormous camp. I hoped I would hear a voice calling me from behind, but I could only make out the shriek of strong gusts.

Panic begins to replace the adrenalin. It's not her they want; it's not even me. But I'm the one who has it. I wonder how Mum and Dad would react if they found out I had lost my sister to a Darkist.

I can't just leave her there.

Terrified as I am, I turn back around and head for the Darkist headquarters.

As I approach, I hear voices.

"Ah Fu, you beat her up so hard!" says one man. I can hear boisterous laughing afterwards.

I am furious, but common sense tells me I can't just burst in on them, or both myself and my sister will all be at the mercy of the Darkists.

Before I can decide what to do, the tent flies open, and I'm seized by three Darkists. I struggle, but their grip is too strong, and they lead me inside.

I see Zaza lying on the floor, bruises all over her face. Breaking the Darkists' grasp, I rush over to her. Falling to my knees, I gently shake her. Her body is ice cold, but her heart is warm and beating. Her eyelids flutter, and I let out a sigh of relief. She's alive. As I try to hug her, she murmurs something to me.

"He wants the book."

I am abruptly forced back to my feet and hauled through to another area of the tent. Sitting calmly at a table is a man I've never seen before, wearing an expensive-looking suit.

"I think you already know what I want. Let's make one thing clear: you're not going anywhere until I get it. You can either give me it now, or I can kill your sister."

My face hardens as I try to hide my fear.

The book holds the secrets to the city. It is one of the last remaining written records of Hong Kong's true history. Without it, future generations will only hear the version of events that the winner of this war wants them to hear. I hadn't actually heard of the Darkists killing anyone. But it wasn't a risk I wanted to take.

My sister was worth more to me than the book.

"OK, OK. I'll give you it. But first you have to let my sister go."

He smirks, and immediately two Darkists pull my sister to her feet, while another opens the tent and escorts her out.

"Don't do it, Electo!" my sister shouts at me.

I sigh. But I've made my decision.

"Well?" he prompts.

Reluctantly, I take the book out. I'm still clutching it tightly when one of the Darkists steps forward and grabs it from me before I can change my mind.

I run out to my sister. She seems unharmed, if a little pale, and we quickly make a move away from the camp.

Safely out of reach of the camp, we slow down, and glancing at me, my sister finally speaks.

"You shouldn't have given them it. I'm just one person - you've just sacrificed the history of Hong Kong itself for me," she says. She seems bitter.

"Why do you think I carry that book everywhere with me?"

"To keep it safe ... ?"

"Well, that's partly it, yes. But I've also been memorising it, from cover to cover, for the last four months."

Zaza stops running and stares at me, a small smile on the corner of her lips.

"And I've been making more copies, too. The copies aren't as convincing as the official book of course, but as long as there are those of alive who know the truth, Hong Kong will always survive," I say. Zaza grins and starts hugging me.

And as we walk away from the camp, I vow never to let Hong Kong collapse into the hands of the Darkists.


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