Gold

黄金

     他的身材魁伟,肌肉极其发达,皮肤漆黑,却有着一头金发。他骑着一匹壮硕的黑马,从一个镇游荡到另一个镇,每次停留的时间都不长。他一到镇子上就先找酒馆痛饮烈酒,然后去妓院,再下赌场,直到把口袋里的金子挥霍一空才翻身上马,扬长而去。没人知道他去了哪儿,也没人知道他是怎么搞到那么多金子的,甚至没人知道他的名字,人们喜欢称呼他为“黑伯爵”。
     有一次,这位黑伯爵喝得酩酊大醉,有个不怀好意的人试探他,问他金子的事。他说这是个秘密,反正不是偷来的也不是抢来的,他问心无愧。又干掉几杯后,他补充说,这金子来之不易,一次比一次难,因为一次比一次疼。那以后他就被一个探子盯梢了。当他骑马离开镇子时,探子就悄悄跟在后面,这家伙很有一套,即使在空旷地带,也能想办法避开黑伯爵的视线。
     探子跟着黑伯爵来到一座僻静的山谷,天已经黑了,黑伯爵在一处断壁下停住,下了马,找来枯树枝生起一堆篝火。探子绕上对面一座小山,在山顶上爬着,用望远镜观察他的猎物。只见黑伯爵跪在篝火前念叨着什么,像是在祷告,随后他脱去上衣,掏出一把左轮手枪,用枪口顶在自己的左肩头,仰起头,双眼紧闭,浑身肌肉都绷紧了,然后他把枪口从左肩头移开一段距离,扣动了扳机,紧接着又朝左腿开了两枪。
     他倒在地上,抽搐几下就不动了,像死了一样。过了很久他才艰难地坐起身,从口袋里掏出一把小刀,放在火上烧一烧,而后看看小刀,又拿起一根树枝,用牙咬住,接着就开始剜自己的肉。他从肩头剜出一样东西,捏着它在裤腿上蹭掉上面的血,这东西在火光映照下闪着金光,黑伯爵着迷地看着它,咧嘴笑了。那之后是腿部的挖掘,耗时更长,当大功告成,黑伯爵已然精疲力竭。
     探子对眼前发生的事十分惊异,但他也看清了门道。很快,探子就把这个秘密报告了他的老板。他的老板可不是什么生意人,而是一个臭名昭著、心狠手辣的匪帮头子。
     当黑伯爵再次出现在一座小镇上,已经是两个月后,此时的他又强壮得犹如一头公牛,但他不知道有一伙人早已经等得不耐烦了。他一如既往,狂饮烈酒,逛妓院,下赌场,然后骑马离开。当他走到旷野中,匪帮包围上来,几把枪同时瞄准了他,他没机会反抗或是逃走。他们命令他下马,绑住他的双手, 扒光了他的衣裳。他被押着在旷野中走了一段,来到两棵歪脖树前。他们在歪脖树间架起一根杆子,将他吊在上面。
     匪帮头子走过来对黑伯爵说话,他说自己很佩服他,说如果不是为了金子他们没准儿会成为朋友,他还说他是条硬汉,配得上伯爵的头衔,所以,他不准备长期折磨他,决定给他来个痛快的。黑伯爵不发一言,只是点点头,像是表示谢意。
     那之后,匪徒们站成一排,朝着黑伯爵正面开火,枪声响彻旷野,激烈得像一场战争。而后,他们换了个方向,站成一排朝黑伯爵的后背开火,这一次,他们打光了全部子弹。匪徒们把嵌满子弹的黑伯爵从杆子上放下来,满怀期待地掏出刀子。这时已是正午时分,火辣辣的太阳悬在头顶,他们从这具黑色躯体中剖出了大把大把的金子,捧在手上,晃得睁不开眼。

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Zhu Yue,
Translated by Qianan Lian

     He had a strong, muscular figure, pitch black skin, and hair the color of gold. He rode a sturdy black horse, drifting from one town to another, never staying long. After he arrived, he would find a tavern for a whiskey, then visit a brothel, then a casino. When he spent all the gold nuggets in his sack, he would hitch up his horse and leave. No one knew where he went or where he had gotten all his gold. No one even knew his name. He came to be known only as the Black Baron.
     One night, when the Black Baron got dead drunk, a wicked man tried to ferret out the source of the gold nuggets. But the Black Baron held fast to his secret. He said that his conscience was clear, that the gold was not stolen. After downing more whiskey, he added that getting the gold nuggets was not easy and it became harder and harder because it hurt more each time.
     When the Black Baron rode out of town, the wicked man snuck after him. The wicked man was crafty indeed. Even across open land, he found ways to conceal himself and spy on the Black Baron. The wicked man followed his prey to a silent, secluded valley. By then, it was night. The Black Baron dismounted near a crumbling cliff and gathered branches to make a fire. The wicked man climbed a hill opposite to observe his target through a spyglass. He saw the Black Baron kneeling and murmuring something into the fire, as though in prayer. Next, the Black Baron slipped off his shirt, pressed the muzzle of his pistol against his left shoulder, and Qian lifted his head, squeezing his eyes shut. Muscles taut, he drew the pistol back and pulled the trigger. Right after this he aimed down and shot his left leg twice.
     The Black Baron fell to the ground, twitched a few times, then lay dead still. After a long while, he strained to lift himself up. He took out a small knife from his pants pocket and held it over the fire, watching it glow. Then, clenching a branch between his teeth, he started cutting into his flesh. He dug out something from his shoulder and wiped the bloody object against his pant leg. It glinted gold in the firelight. The Black Baron grinned, mesmerized. Digging into his leg took even longer. When he was finished, the Black Baron slumped in exhaustion.
     The wicked man was stunned. He quickly left the valley to report to his boss what he had seen. This boss was no businessman; he was a bandit leader, notorious for his cruelty.
     By the time the Black Baron showed up in another town, it was two months later and he had regained his ox-like strength. But he had no idea that the men had gotten tired of waiting for him to reappear. Like before, the Black Baron drank with abandon, went to prostitutes, hit the casino, then left on his horse. As he crossed into the wilderness, the bandits surrounded him with guns drawn, leaving him no hope to resist or escape. They ordered him down from his horse. Then they tied his hands, stripped his clothes, and pushed him toward two crooked trees. The bandits strung him up on a pole hanging between the branches.
     The Boss came up to the Black Baron. He said he truly admired him, and were it not for the gold nuggets, the two probably would have become friends.  "You’re a real tough man. You deserve to be called Black Baron," he said. "Well, I won’t torture you. I’ll tell my men to make it quick." The Black Baron simply nodded, as if in gratitude.
     The bandits lined up in front of the Black Baron and fired. Gunshots echoed through the wilderness, as though from a brutal battle. Afterward, the bandits lined up behind him and emptied their chambers. Then they unbound the bullet-riddled man and, with great anticipation, unsheathed their knives. It was noon, the scorching sun high above. From the black body, the bandits carved out handful after handful of huge gold nuggets. They held the nuggets in their hands, eyes blinded by the light.


Zhu Yue is the Beijing-born author of three short story collections: The Blindfold Traveler, The Masters of Sleep, and The Chaos of Fiction. 

Jianan Qian is the author of a short story collection, People Grow Old, But Won't Die, and the Chinese translator of The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard and The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton by Elizabeth Speller. Qian is currently a second-year fiction student in the Iowa Writers' Workshop.