Plague Doctor - Chapter 394
At Mo Bei City, not many citizens still worked the farms. Most of the younger generations had moved to Beijing, leaving behind the old to guard over this ancestral land. Bei Mian Village at Ma Er Wan District’s Yun Lin City was one such example. The villagers lived by the river and survived on small scale farming. Beyond the tilled lands were wastelands. Desertification arrived quite some time ago, other than some worked grounds, the place was not suitable for plantation or animal rearing.
However, to counter this, over the past decade, thanks to the government, there had been changes to the land. If you looked from the sky, you’d see some green at the wasteland around the village. It was a small forest thanks to the afforestation effort. For most, Arbor Day came once a year but for 79 years old Wang Fuhou, he woke up to look after the trees every day. Early in the morning, before the sun even rose, Wang Fuhou was woken up by the birds chirping. He and his wife lived at a small brick house near the small forest. They managed 50 mu of land 30 years ago but now, they had planted trees over 200 plus mu of land. The old couple was used to this kind of life.
“Honey, honey.” Wang Fuhou shook his 77 years old wife, Zhang Maidong, “It’s time to wake up, we still have work to do.”
“Look at how excited you are. Aren’t you a little tired at your age…” Zhang Maidong pretended to grouse, “People at our age should have gone into retirement already…”
“Ha ha.” Wang Fuhou chuckled as he crawled out from bed. “Neither of us have finished school but we know about the importance of hard work. Someone has to plant these trees or else what can we leave for our future generations? The only hope I have now is that I can live for a few more years to plant more trees.”
“That’s enough. I don’t need the government spiel from you. Save those for the reporters.” Zhang Maidong chided jokingly. Wang Fuhou’s wrinkled face brightened with a big smile. He and his wife were just honored by the major this past Arbor Day. Afforestation was now a national hot topic thanks to Phecda’s encouragement to greenify the environment. Afforestation was not a lucrative business. It required a lot of manpower and large machineries; They often needed to hire extra hands around the tree farm during planting season; maintenance of the farm also required money. The source of income came from the cultivation of tree seedlings and fertilization of the fallen branches and leaves. With several ten thousand in profit every year and some government support, Wang Fuhou could keep his family afloat. Their 3 children had already moved away and had their own family. Occasionally they would return to help but they wouldn’t stay for long. Not everyone was suited for this kind of work.
Wang Fuhou bought the 30 mu of land initially to earn the government sponsor to start the business but after so many years, he found himself getting interested in afforestation and what it represented. Wang Fuhou knew his wife felt the same way despite her sharp tongue. After all, for so many years, she shared half of the hard work required to turn the wasteland into green lands. 30 years ago, this place had no electricity, no water, no roads, no nothing, it was truly a wasteland. It was the senior couple who slowly brought everything back to shape. Pines, locust trees, Weeping Willows, Linn trees… As the different varieties grew, verdancy arrived at the wasteland.
“How about we undertake another 10 mu of lands for afforestation? Next time, the government will surely commend me again.”
“I don’t think so! That will take years out of my life!” After joking with his wife, Wang Fuhou put on his jacket and cap and headed out from the brick house. The day was foggy and the birds sang louder. Wang Fuhou stepped on the fallen leaves and strolled through the forest that he had personally grown. New leaves and branches peeked out in spring. These young greens lifted his spirit.
“Such a soothing vista.” Wang Fuhou did not attend much school so he did not know many big vocabularies but the reporters who came that day kept repeating this phrase so he picked up on it. To think that he would get on the national news at his age, the old man’s smile brightened further. He was glad that he had done something with his life.
“Hmm, maybe I should take another contract from the government.” Wang Fuhou pondered as he tripped on a fallen branch. His knees buzzed with pain. “I’m really getting old.” The old man sighed. No one could resist the ravages of time. He gave another sigh as he thought back to his youth. He used to be able to carry multiple tree branches on his own and climb up tall trees with ease but now he had to watch where he walked carefully. He was getting older but the trees around him grew taller.
Wang Fuhou continued his journey until he reached the spot for Fu Hou Tree, the first tree they ever planted. It was a locust tree, it had grown so big that his hug could not envelope the thick trunk anymore. Wang Fuhou would come visit this tree every morning before he started his job. The tree was like a child for them.
“…Where’s the tree?” But now Wang Fuhou stood there stumped. He looked at the sparse forest. This place which he had traversed for years suddenly looked so unfamiliar to him. He was the one who grew this forest, he could traverse through it with his eyes closed but the Fu Hou Tree was not where it was supposed to be. Wang Fuhou found that he had lost his way. Not only Fu Hou Tree had gone missing, so had other trees.
“Where, where am I?” Wang Fuhou was confused. This spot did not look like any location he had visited before. This was not his tree farm. ‘The distance between each tree is wrong! There shouldn’t be so little trees! Someone came for illegal logging?’ As the thought crossed his mind, Wang Fuhou’s heart lit up with panic and anger. But then he calmed down and realized that was impossible. ‘There would be commotion from logging and we would have heard something. Plus there are no trails on the ground and no logging dust… This is so strange.’
Wang Fuhou trekked ahead in confusion. Strangely enough, the other parts of his tree farm remained the same, only the 30 metres around the Fu Hou Tree had changed. He returned to the spot. He discovered not only had the trees disappeared, none of the remaining trees had new shoots coming through. All the trees were dead. Some of their barks cracked like they could topple at any moment. The land under his feet was black like nutrients had been drained out of it.
“What is going on…” Wang Fuhou grumbled as he moved to stand before another locust tree. He reached out his callous right hand to inspect the cracked bark. The old man’s eyes widened as fear surged through him. His hand plunged right into the trunk like it broke through the surface of water. The old man then was ravaged by an immense pain like his whole body was burning. His cell threatened to implode. “Honey, honey…!”