23 Nov Kingdom of Suffering
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"Kingdom of Suffering"Written by The Phantom Librarian
Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Hidden deep within the rural countryside of mainland China sits a rotting edifice of failed consumerism: the decrepit remnants of Disneyland China. Half of a Western-style castle, bits of girders and wires and planks jutting out of moldy particleboard like shattered bones from gangrenous skin, looms over a wide swath of flat swampland. Tourists and backpackers have happened upon it from time to time but the intense feeling of inhuman wrongness urged them to ignore the queer structures and fragments of civilization in favor of escape. Half-completed spires, collapsed trailers, rusted red metal, and the scent of rot drift out of the dense fog like a bizarre fairy tale mockery. Shadows and animals roam the location although everyone in the surrounding area knows that nothing living frequents the uneven cobblestone streets and half-constructed cottages. It is a city of ghosts.
The Disney bosses were hesitant to buy at first, shrewd as they were, but the price was too good to pass up and the area perfect for a sprawling theme park complete with exemptions from the ruling party members – palms greased as needed from nearly unlimited coffers. It was a perfect location they enthused, the area ripe for their corporate thievery and corrupt guile, why they could build a private airfield and corner the market entirely! Why they believed that thousands of Chinese would flock to the fake cobblestone streets and put down their hard earned pittance for a chance at Western capitalist nonsense was anyone’s guess. But then again those were simpler times when the bottom line mattered more than how you managed to get there…
Deals were made, contracts were signed, and massive amounts of money began pouring into the project. A veritable town grew up in a wide circle around the construction area. Administrative offices were built for comfort, worker lodgings were built for utility, and the land was readied for the great transformation from rice paddy to imaginationland. All supplies were kept under lock and key, guards roamed the perimeter of a tall chain-link fence, and workers were subject to random identification checks to ensure Disney didn’t spent a single penny more than expected.
The first death was a cement worker; he fell into a mixing vat and was chopped to pieces by the stirring blades. The accident, if you could call it that, occurred late in the day and it wasn’t until they began pouring the next morning that his grisly fate was discovered. Disneyland executives were cleared of any wrongdoing after a smear campaign discrediting the man as a ‘worthless drunk’. So they poured the bloody cement in the base of the Magic Kingdom and hoped to forget.
Next, four electricians were killed when a transformer blew in an enclosed room. ‘Poor standards and lack of safety measures’ the press release went but already there were whispers and shivers among the workers. They were from the urban outskirts, businesses contracted because they were cheap and didn’t care that Disney was willing to overlook their safety. And why should they cause a fuss? They were each getting paid more for the year of construction than most of their families made in ten.
The small hamlets around the construction area remained tightly closed. Shuttered against the invaders they shared nothing, no food, no water, no supplies. Everything needed to be shipped in from afar. However, local tales of ghostly vapor and vengeful soldiers dragging unfortunates down to the underworld filtered their way into the ears of the workers and day laborers. The area was known for war – too much blood had been spilled on the land for anything more than horror to grow. The workmen grew restless, they refused to work, but that mattered little to the oncoming steamroller of corporate greed. They were fired, their contracts broken, and others either poorer or stupider were brought in to replace the suddenly hemorrhaging construction force.
And so it continued apace but certainly not as quickly as expected. Forty-seven more deaths followed, all accidents caused by personal negligence or carelessness, but there was only so far Disneyland executives could hold that lie….
The Magic Kingdom, half completed, became the focal point of the project – for in the eyes of greedy investors and embezzlers and the like if they could only raise that symbol the project would fall into place. Work was doubled, the timetable shortened, and more deaths followed. The areas around the forsaken theme park refused to serve workers, refused to sell food, refused the cheap comforts of the flesh such projects inevitably spawn in the loins of rough men and uneducated laborers. For stupid they were to continue working when everything in their bones cried out the wrongness and terror of their work.
Workers were killed, their mutilated bodies (bereft of head, limbs, and genitals) discovered cast into the boggy marshland at the borders of the construction site. Later, pieces of them were discovered in all manner of locations throughout the theme park. A head was found inside a generator, hands were plucked from painting buckets, and ten penises were skewered atop the flagpole in the center of the Village Square. Workers stopped arriving, construction firms pulled out, and everything seemed doomed for the project…
Until Disneyland executive Steven Oroko flew in to personally put the project to rights. Word came two weeks before his arrival and the local planning commission dismissed all their current work in preparation for Oroko’s legendary iron-fisted approach. The death toll came to an end as workers were fired, the equipment was polished and oiled, and all was in readiness for a whirlwind of work that would finally see Disneyland rise tall in the Chinese countryside.
Outside the construction zone, to the west, lay a tiny collection of huts and simple buildings. Teng Kai Rui was an old man, a farmer, who had weathered the storms of war and famine. His ancestors lived in Beijing before hard times and debts conspired to oust them to the fringes of society. He lived far afield from the construction because he knew exactly what lay in the soft lands. Ghouls and ghosts stalked the lands; murdered people rose up and sought vengeance, broken lovers desperately searched for their lost partners in the foggy mists. He never went to the area, cautioned his entire family not to go, and steadfastly refused to listen to anyone hoping to make something of the loose assemblage of hate and horror where Disneyland China would stand. His great-great-great-great grandfather settled in the ‘Mogui Wan’ or ‘Devil Bowl’ where Disneyland seethed in the middle of open farmland and frequently told of the night he left Mogui Wan.
Teng Fa Lai was Kai Rui’s ancestor’s name and, like the Disneyland Committee, settled in Mogui Wan due to the cheap living and lack of competition (in those days). Also like Disney he was unaware of the danger he placed himself and his family in until it was almost too late. For three summers Fa Lai toiled until his harvest, although modest, became enough to feed his growing family. With two sons and another child on the way he could not justify leaving the area even if the land and air felt wrong. His wife refused to talk of it – Fa Lai believed she felt the same – but his sons had told stories of shadows and shapes moving in the mist since they settled. He dismissed them thinking it was agitation from being displaced but the longer they stayed the more frequent their observations came until even he began seeing dark forms skulking in the fog.
Fa Lai convinced himself it was just his imagination.
Then, one midsummer eve a mysterious knock was heard upon their door. The night was humid and still but the omnipresent mist curled around their hovel in a gauzy grip. The air smelled of putrefaction, like rotting water plants or clay, and drifted into the house through every crack in the walls and ceiling. The night was deathly silent. Fa Lai rose to the door and listened but could hear no one on the other side – no breathing, no movement. Relief pushed the tension from his body and he began to return to the dinner table when the knock came again. Instantly the hairs on the back of his neck rose and a prickling sensation leaked from his head all the way down to the soles of his feet.
Opening the door revealed an upright corpse, skin putrefying and pus oozing from open stab wounds down its front and legs. The head was almost completely severed under the chin and it dribbled crawling insects from the wound like a writhing beard. At first he thought it a sick joke, that someone propped the thing up in order to scare them away from his profitable farm, until the limp head swiveled in his direction with the sound of grinding glass.
“Leave this place.” It spoke without opening its fetid mouth. “Leave us this place for the living have no power here. Leave us and save yourself.”
Fa Lai shut the door and the family ran that very night. They settled with Fa Lai’s brother’s family in the homestead where so many years later Kai Rui would be born.
An omen, an orange with thirty-six seeds, and a lightning strike on the tree his father planted on the day he was born told Teng Kai that the time was right. He held no love for the government or for Disney but he would not see innocent people die. Kissing the remaining family he held dear goodbye he set out for the skeletal ghostly spire of The Magic Kingdom in the distance.
Oroko arrived and immediately began work. He began by bringing in outside construction firms and firing all local contractors. His reasoning was that you didn’t trust people you never worked with before. The local Committee told him nothing of the deaths or strange phenomena, no hint of the rumors or the mutilations; they simply smiled at him eager to start rolling in their profit margins. Day became night as it was wont to do and a deathly silence fell upon the site. Despite the frantic banging and drilling and sawing the darkness swallowed all sound – workmen left machinery running and stepped away to grab another bit or a tool only to become deaf to the sounds of their own industry once outside a foot. Two men left a table saw running and stepped away to lift new planks – they did not hear the machine running and unwisely decided they had turned it off – only to saw their own fingers as they lay the new wood down. An electrician working in the upper levels of the Magic Kingdom, after twenty minutes of dead silence, jumped from the rigging to the pink concrete below.
Fog began rolling in from the lower areas of the uneven terrain and people began seeing shadows dart to and fro between unfinished foundations and bare girders. Oroko was roused from his trailer outside the castle gate by thunderous blows against the walls and door. He rose from his late nap and opened his door. No one knows what was on the other side but pieces of him were all that were found the next morning. Fragments really, nothing of any substance, most of him was blasted and pureed against the walls of his trailer. Bits of skull and his ocular nerves were all that were recoverable.
Panic set in after Oroko’s agonized screams filled the air, the first pure sound heard since the final wrath of Mogui Wan began, and workers raced around the construction site looking for any way out.
There was no escape. By the time Teng Kai Rui arrived all 1206 members of the night crew were splashed against every surface in the incomplete park. The outlying farmland was literally dyed red and nothing grew there ever after. Kai Rui shuffled through the gate of the Magic Kingdom sick with revulsion and anger at the foolishness of men.
He sat upon a worn stone on the packed dirt path and looked towards the cresting sun. Could he have convinced the greedy white man to abandon the site? No, in truth he knew that he would never had been able to convince them. What power could an illiterate farmer wield against such base avarice? He turned back to the west and home but as he stood the rising sun seared over the edges of the mountains far in the distance. In that muddy illumination, in that murky period between darkness and light, a terrifying tableau manifested in the Devil Bowl.
All around him in the low plain were standing shadows. Solid black people disappearing in the rising sun but each one of thousands staring at him…into him. Rising with the drying dew a nightmarish image arose of twisted towers and blackened steel, sheets of human skin and rivers of infected blood, and everywhere multitudinous dark eyes. The quivering mirage of horrible agonies dimmed in the rising light and the shadows dispersed but Teng Kai Rui knew what he had seen.
A Kingdom of Suffering. Perhaps it was all meant to be, he mused, perhaps the evil wanted the Magic Kingdom built in contrast to its Empire of Agony. Perhaps the dead simply wanted an amusement park of their own…
And so it stands to this very day shrouded in mist and silence.
Credit To – The Phantom Librarian