Flying-Bird Hourglass chapter 1

Chapter 1



“Yu Yingwen.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“Yes, with Dr. Yu, at three o’clock.”

“Please wait over here, Dr. Yu will see you shortly.”

I sat on the bench by the wall. Ever since I’d been released by the hospital on Taolin Road, as long as I took my medication, I hardly ever went in for psychological treatment.

“Mr. Lu?” Dr. Lu walked over, and as he visually examined me, I could see his gaze unintentionally reveal a sense of astonishment, “Why did you come?”

“I…” I looked around and lowered my voice, “It’s not convenient to speak out here.” The things that I came to talk with him about were quite bizarre. Or, rather, they weren’t bizarre, but they were things that I would frequently mention when I was a patient at the hospital on Taolin Road, which is, after all, a mental hospital. Naturally, these things weren’t considered as rationally sound.

“Alright, let’s go in the office and talk.” Dr. Yu pushed open the door, moving aside to let me through.

I lowered my head, following him unhurriedly. I was sixty-five this year. My physical health wasn’t good, but the biggest concern was my mental health. My friends say that I won’t live to see seventy. I think it’s already a miracle I lived long enough to retire.


I have a severe case of schizophrenia, with both delusions and symptoms of paranoia.

In most cases, this type of illness occurs after an emotional collapse, but mine wasn’t like this. On an ordinary, warm afternoon, I woke up and it appeared.

The memories collected a thick coat of dust. When rummaging through the nooks and crannies of my mind, as long as I don’t deliberately search, I’m just a normal, happy old man.

Unfortunately, this illness was particularly sensitive, and just as I couldn’t let my sentiments brew, I also couldn’t release them at will. My cerebrum was a fragile piece of porcelain; with the slightest lapse in attention, it would fall into chaos.

And so, I came to see Dr. Lu. After I left the hospital, I was transferred into his care, and he was responsible for my mental state.


“How are you?” Dr. Yu attempted to liven the atmosphere with a jovial tone.

“I attended a funeral.” I said, pondering how to describe it without it sounding strange, “ I attended his funeral.”

“You’re referring to…” Dr. Lu’s expression suddenly turned solemn, and he rifled through the papers on his desk to search for his case file, “Rong Qianshan’s funeral?”

“Yes.” I nodded, “Rong Qianshan, sixty-eight years old, lived in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan district, South Lin Court, Building 13, Unit 304, died of heart disease.”

“How did you— Wait, why did you go?” Dr. Yu asked.

“I received an invitation.” I said. I took out a letter, “Here.” The letter was rectangular, the envelope was sealed with wax in the shape of an hourglass, and the outside was decorated with calligraphic sketches of flying birds.

Dr. Yu took the letter, opening it half believingly and half disbelievingly, and from the yellowing paper, it looked quite aged.

What was written in the letter, I remember clearly to this day.

[My darling Yingwen…]


My darling Yingwen,

How have you been recently?

I hope you’ve been eating well, exercising regularly, and such.

May 6th, my funeral.

Wear western-styled clothing, I like your seagull tie.

Rong Qianshan.


“Seagull tie?” Dr. Yu asked.

I nodded: “The tie I wore the day I graduated highschool.” I didn’t know why I kept that tie for so long. For over fifty years, it’d been crushed in the bottom of my wardrobe, and I had to expend a lot of energy to haul it back out.

“He knew you.” Dr. Yu said.

Yes, he knew me, without question. Otherwise, why would he write me a letter and invite me to his funeral?

I knew him too. Not in reality, but in my hallucinations, I knew him.

“But.” Dr. Yu’s brows pinched together, “On May 6th, Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan district had a 6.0 earthquake. How could people hold a funeral then?”

“Earthquake?” I was surprised, “What earthquake?”


On May 6th, the weather had been spectacular, with white clouds, blue skies, and a gentle breeze. I dressed up especially for the occasion, wearing that seagull necktie paired with a pressed western-styled suit. It was like I was young again, stepping out intrepidly for an interview.

I live in Dalian. I love warm weather and the sea, and Dalian meets both of these criteria. Although I live in Dalian, I haven’t had many opportunities to go sight-seeing around the city because I spend the majority of my time receiving treatment at the hospital on Taolin Road.

The hospital’s flower garden has expansive peach trees. While the blossoming period may not be long, it’s enough for me to praise admiringly and share the sight with Rong Qianshan in my dreams.

With me, I brought a CD, an interview with the actors from “Doctor Who,” his favorite. He was a university professor that taught physics. I happened to also be a university professor that taught philosophy.

Before my illness, I would indulge in a bit of existentialism. Kafka and Camus’s arguments were quite brilliant.

I held “L’Étranger,” lost in thought, my mind filled with the absurd pronouncements from within the book. “He did not cry when his mother was buried.” Meursault should cry, wail, show how important she was to him.

When I opened his eyes again, I saw Rong Qianshan standing beneath the peach trees, smiling at me: “Professor Yu.”


That one call of “Professor Yu” spelled the doom of the greater half of my lifetime.

I wore a dark, western-style suit, a white rose tucked into my breast pocket, as I walked into the funeral venue.

The funeral was held in the event hall of a hotel, the guests entering and leaving freely. I shuffled back and forth, like a ship without a safe harbor, until I saw him⸻

Arranged in the center of the room was a black and white photograph of Rong Qianshan. I remembered his name:

“Rong Qianshan.”


I’d never attended a funeral before. I wasn’t present at my parents’ funeral.

It wasn’t that I was cold-blooded, but I didn’t have the opportunity to go, as I was at the hospital on Taolin Road receiving treatment. My relatives naturally forgot about me, like I was a bag of refuse that elicited disgust. I understood their feelings; when someone has a mental illness, relatives will not recognize them too willingly.

I have a little sister. She came to the hospital to tell me the news of their passing. I had just taken medication at the time, and my entire body felt weak, like I was treading on clouds. She blamed me for my bad attitude, got angry at me, then hugged me and cried bitterly.

I told her, I loved someone.

Someone who doesn’t exist.

I loved Rong Qianshan.


Between Rong Qianshan and I was a glass pane; we couldn’t embrace in a meaningful sense. Across the glass partition, he smiled at me.

He was like April’s peach blossoms, the tender buds of yearning unfolding in the spring scenery.

I spared not a single complimentary word to praise him, but description remains beyond my reach.

After more than twenty years of hospitalization, the medication destroyed a portion of my memory. I only remember that I loved Rong Qianshan, but I no longer remember why.

Our relationship was a dream, he was a dream, and I loved him.

Whether he loved me or not, I do not know.

I am a bird that cannot fly, my life out to sea on a piece of driftwood.


“Hello, sir.”

I turned my head, and saw a young man was standing behind me: “What is it?”

“Excuse me, you are Mr. Rong’s…?” He asked.

Who was I to Rong Qianshan? Why did he send me an invitation? We had never met in the real world. When I was at my most frenzied, I asked some friends in the Public Affairs system to look into news of Rong Qianshan for me, but there was nothing.

This person, Rong Qianshan, did not exist in this world.

But now, I was at his funeral in reality.

Who was he, exactly?

I opened my mouth: “I am Yu Yingwen.”

The young man’s expression relaxed, and he picked up a wooden box and passed it to me: “I was Professor Rong’s assistant. Before his passing, he instructed me to give this box to you.”

I took the wooden box. It wasn’t large, only about the span of two palms, but it was heavy. I said: “Thank you.”


“He gave you a box.” Dr. Yu said.

I nodded, “Yes.”

“Did anyone else at the funeral know you?” Dr. Yu asked.

I shook my head: “No, I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me.”

“So, you’re saying that you went to a funeral full of strangers at the epicenter of an earthquake.” Dr. Yu said, “Are you sure that these events really happened? It wasn’t in one of the realistic dreamworlds you have?”

Dr. Yu’s summarization confirmed my own feelings of absurdity, and I swallowed: “I don’t know, but,” I held the wooden box, “This is real.”

Dr. Yu took the wooden box and opened it, his expression slightly strange: “An hourglass.”

“I know.” I said, “Why did he give me an hourglass?”

“I’m a psychologist, Yu Yingwen, not a detective.” Dr. Yu said. He closed the box, stretching out his hands to return it to me, “How has your sleep been recently?”

“Not bad.” I placed the wooden box inside a paper bag.

“Have you dreamed of Rong Qianshan?” He asked.

I shook my head: “After the funeral, I haven’t.”

Dr. Yu conjectured: “The funeral, was it your brain signaling that you’ve fully recovered?”

I didn’t dare to answer. The one I loved, the mirage I had spent most of my life searching for, why had he said goodbye now? With a million questions concealed in my heart, I stood and said to Dr. Yu: “Thanks. I’ll take my leave now.”

“Alright, if anything comes up, give me a call.” Dr. Yu said, “Congratulations, Yu Yingwen.”


I was not happy, not even a little bit.

I sat on the balcony and picked up a small watering can to nourish the flowers. The one bedroom, one living room teacher’s apartment suited me well enough.

My little sister would often come to see me, as well as my nephew, but I still felt rather lonely because my dreams didn’t have Rong Qianshan in them.

That scoundrel. I put down the watering can and picked up the hourglass, looking at it repeatedly. The hourglass was made of unadorned wood, and the sand inside was gray. Nothing special. I slanted the hourglass toward the sunlight, and I saw that the bottom of the hourglass had a very thin crevice.

What is this? Following the crevice, I pressed the tips of my fingers along the outside, revealing a red button. I sat on the recliner, pondering the little toy, full of curiosity, and pressed the red button. Inside the glass, the sand suddenly turned weightless; the sand, normally stuck to the bottom due to the forces of gravity, flew up the thin glass neck to the hourglass’s wooden crown.

The scenery in front of my eyes abruptly warped, a high-pitched sound blared, and then I no longer felt anything.

Flying-Bird Hourglass

Flying-Bird Hourglass

Score 8.2
Status: Completed Type: Author: Released: 2020 Native Language: Chinese
“He came across thousands of mountains and rivers to find me.”I went to my lover’s funeral. But the guests said, They had never seen me before.


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