This article is taken from Stand 235, 20(3) September - November 2022.

Pei Wen A Sisyphean Exile
Raindrops hurtle towards her, burst and stream down the glass pane. She stands on the inside, watching the cityscape languish into a bleary painting. The skyline is washed away under grey strokes, but whenever slashes of silvery fire fracture the sky, the skyscrapers unveil themselves fleetingly in the space between the raindrops. She is obsessed with storms. Here they course through veins of the metropolis to purge the defiled air. Thunder convulses the concrete and quells the urban dissonance.

She tears herself away from the window and crawls back into bed, sidling close enough to feel the warmth radiating from his body without rousing him – outside the city is getting colder. His chest swells and sinks to steady oscillations, she watches, synchronising her breaths to his, musing over each passing second.

An interminable journey chases, place to place, century to century. She is by now no stranger to the absurdity of her existence, but when circumstances necessitate the loss of a lover, or her life, old scars aggrieve into fresh wounds. She recalls how the wandering swordsman swore to free her from the okiya. They had hatched a plan to elope, settle in the county up north, where he would open a dojo to teach kenjutsu and she would help him run the school.

She entrusted him with all the gold and pearls her wealthy patrons had lavished on her, but at the riverbank, he never turned up. Then there was the other time the emperor orchestrated her ...
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