A Novella (Part 1)
Ho Lin
[Total Pages: 35]
Lin Page 1

Once upon a time
, the warrior begins. The night mist tastes like blood in his mouth, and his throat constricts, as if he is about to throw up. With a grunt and an ahem, he begins anew: Once upon a time, in a faraway province.

No one is present to hear his words - lately he has been given to talking to himself. He is constructing a makeshift fire, gathering bits of soggy cardboard boxes, slices of wood that splinter betwixt fingers and thumb, ripped-up signage that spells promises and guarantees. For a brighter future. one begins with dashing, dark strokes. . ends soon, finishes another with robotic red letters. The warrior stares intently at these two phrases, each written in a different

language, and his mind constructs scenarios, linkages, progressions, how this one slogan led to the other.

But later. Once upon a time. So easy to be distracted. A consequence of age. Despite the touch of gray to his temples and beard, the chalklike lines that score his face, the warrior is a robust man. It would be assumed that someone with his calling has seen many things, most of them unpleasant, and thus the story about to be told is one of charred battlefields, lands so distant that their very names seem to have the clenched intensity of a dream, the screams of the dead and dying like the howls of animals at night. But he thinks of none of this as he tears