After spending a few hours in the internet cafe, Xia Lian didn’t know if he was awake or asleep anymore. He spent the night with a muddled head until five or six in the morning, the occasional pain shooting up his left calf dispelled the last of his sleepiness. Through the glass door of the internet cafe, the sky outside starts to brighten. Xia Lian got up and headed towards the front desk to check out, planning to take advantage of the daybreak to go out and catch his breath, knowing that the air inside the internet cafe smells stale and unpleasant. Although being in a crowd made him feel safer, the concentration of second-hand smoke made him lose a few years of his lifespan on the spot.
He walked slowly along the road. It was still too early to head to work, and the main door of the office building would probably still be locked. Xia Lian wondered if he could find a place that opened much earlier to eat breakfast and pad his stomach, when he heard a jingling sound. Being in a somewhat still paranoid mood, Xia Lian immediately turned towards the direction of the sound. On the alley to his left, a frail grandmother trembled as she struggled to pick up the broken plastic bag she just dropped and the many cans rolling all over the ground.
A can rolled towards his feet, and Xia Lian knelt down to pick it up, then the rest one by one along the road while walking towards the old woman. It wasn’t an easy task to pick up so many cans this early in the morning. Originally Xia Lian thought the grandma looked a little dirty, as if beaten down and exhausted under the burden of life. As he walked closer, the grandma turned around to take the can that Xia Lian was offering. As her line of sight looked up, he realised both of the grandma’s eyes were full of spirit, a little incisive even. Her hair was fully white but it was combed very neatly. Her clothes looked aged, but they’re clean and very tidy.
At the same time, the grandma was also inspecting Xia Lian. After she thanked him for picking up the can, she put the cans inside another unbroken big plastic bag.
Xuan Lian turned around and was about to leave, but he didn’t think the grandma would suddenly reach out her hand and pull him back, “Don’t go!”
“Your face is dark, everything about you seems a little weak, is it because recently you provoked something bad?” Although the grandma was shorter than Xia Lian by half a head, her grip is powerful. She held Xia Lian in place and sized him up and down and asked.
“You can see there is something not right with me?”
“Of coure ah, boy, according to your face you don’t have many days left ah….”
“Do you have any ideas?” He was impressed by how insightful she was, being able to guess his situation from one look. Desperate, Xia Lian ended up retelling the grandma about the weird things happening in his rental house over the past few days in detail.
“According to the situation that you just said, it’s actually still salvageable right now.” After hearing Xia Lian talk about his situation, the grandma knowingly replied.
“Then, how to salvage it?”
“Here I have a box of joss sticks.” As she spoke, the grandma bent down and opened the sackcloth bag she had been carrying. From within, she fished out a dark red palm sized wooden box and a silver rectangular censer and waved it in front of Xia Lian’s face. “Every morning and evening you should light up one incense stick inside your rental house, and put it inside the silver censer. You should also be inside the house and smell the fragrance. When the box of incense is completely used up, those human shaped mold you talked about will completely disappear.”
“And the hand imprint on my leg?”
“It will also disappear, they will all disappear, the hand imprint will naturally also be nonexistent. Boy, you should be rest assured, ai…~” As the grandma says this, she was shoving the box and censer she was holding into Xia Lian’s palm.
Holding the things in his hands tightly, Xia Lian didn’t know whether it would actually work or not, but seeing how enthusiastic this grandma that he just met was to help him, his heart actually felt a little warm.
“This… Thank you so much, grandma.”
“Hai, no need to thank me boy, this box of incense is 280, and the censer is 200, your total is 480.”
Xia Lian really would have never guessed there would be this kind of development.
Seeing Xia Lian becoming quiet and not replying, the grandma suddenly replied, as if immediately understanding him and said: “Boy, is it because you’re not bringing cash? I know now a lot of teenagers don’t like bringing them. No problem, would you like to scan a QR or swipe your card?” Like lightning and refusing to listen, the grandma fished out a paper filled with QR codes and a card reader from her bag with practiced movements, her eyes gleaming as she watched Xia Lian.