Once the library opened its doors at nine in the morning, the seven or eight people waiting entered, all of them with grey hair. Today was Monday. It was different from the weekends when many parents would bring their children to the city library to read. Usually only retired old people came to the library on working days.
Outside the library was a busy world. The library itself was quiet, with only the sound of pages being flipped.
At 10 o’clock, more people started coming to the library.
Tang Mo sat in front of the computer to help check out the books. His left hand tapped the keyboard and entered the serial number of the book. His right hand clicked on the mouse to confirm. After doing all of this, he looked up. “You have borrowed a book for nearly a month now. Haven’t you finished reading it?”
The middle-aged woman in front of him smiled and shook her head. “No, my son is a slow reader. Is there a problem if the book isn’t returned in a month?”
Tang Mo explained. “One month is the free period. After that, I need to collect the library fee of 1 yuan a day.” He paused and added, “If you lose the book, you would have to compensate by paying the original price. This book is 82 yuan.”
The woman’s expression changed. “It is so expensive…okay, I will go home today and tell that boy to read the book quickly.” She turned around and left.
Tang Mo looked at the woman striding away, his handsome face not showing much expression. He took the next person’s library card and swiped it.
“Not finished? I think she lost the book.” A crisp female voice rang out.
Tang Mo swiped while speaking, “Maybe.”
There was disdain in the female voice. “A library card is 50 yuan and that book is 82 yuan. I don’t think she will come here again.”
“I also don’t think she will come again.” Director Wang, who was in charge of the reception work, came over and patted Tang Mo’s shoulders. “Xiaotang, go and see what that huckster is doing. I just saw him go to the corner where there is no monitoring. Make sure he doesn’t do anything.” (TL: I chose huckster because it was an English translation that one dictionary site provided me, but it is more like a swindler who uses religion and superstitions to obtain illegal benefits)
Tang Mo nodded and walked to the corner.
The Suzhou City Library was located in the centre of the city and had a total of three floors. The third floor was mostly books on humanities and history. Tang Mo walked from the help desk to the southeast corner. He passed more than 30 bookshelves before finding the huckster.
In November, Suzhou was a bit chill and the winds howled outside the window. The window shook because of it, but the sunlight shining through the window was warm. The huckster sat cross-legged on the floor by the window. He had five or six books scattered around him in a haphazard manner. He wasn’t even looking at a book as he placed his hands in his hair and made the messiness worse.
Tang Mo’s lips pursed as he walked over and picked up a book. “Mr. Chen, our library has tables and chairs. You can read books over there.”
“Read book… read books…what book am I reading?”
Tang Mo looked at the book he had just picked up. “‘The Secret Behind the Mayan Civilization’s Disappearance’?”
The huckster suddenly raised his head and looked at Tang Mo with bloodshot eyes, asking in horror, “Do you know the secret behind the Mayan civilization’s disappearance?”
Tang Mo’s lips curved upwards. “I don’t know, do you?”
“I know, of course I know.” The huckster got up and said, “They have offended God. Their religion is based on false gods, not the true god. They offended God, so they are all dead. God is the only eternal being. Offending him is death!”
Tang Mo had heard these words many times and didn’t pay attention to them. The library was an open place and had seen many things. The huckster might be shocking, but he didn’t have a mental illness. He was only fanatical about religion and they couldn’t run him away because of that.
Tang Mo asked casually, “Where is the real God?”
The huckster’s expression suddenly froze.
Tang Mo smiled, picked up the pile of books and turned to walk away.
He had asked the huckster this question many times. The huckster had started coming to this library a year ago. All day long, he would find a seat that he divined was lucky and babble. But once the staff members asked him the question about who God was, he would shut up and leave the library after a while.
Tang Mo held the books and prepared to leave. He had just turned his head when he heard a deep and mysterious voice behind him. “God is there.”
Tang Mo’s footsteps paused.
He turned to look.
The huckster was standing by the window, pointing at a giant black tower hovering over the city. He gave a fanatical smile and said, “God is coming.”
Tang Mo, “…”
As long as he was happy.
The bus that Tang Mo took home from work every day passed through the city centre. He sat at the window seat and listened to music through earbuds. The song ended, allowing him to hear the conversation of two high school female students.
“The black tower! I’ll take a photo.”
“You are still taking photos? What is so good about this thing. No one wants to look at it now.”
“I will send it around my friend circle. The title is A Day Trip to the Black Tower.”
“No one will like it. Hey, the man sitting by the window is very handsome. If you take a photo of him then many people will praise it and your popularity will shoot up. You should call it…Bus Brother! You have to take a photo!”
As the next song played, Tang Mo raised his right hand to block his face and turned to look out the window, not caring about the two girls. His eyes lifted and he looked at the black tower suspended over Suzhou.
The black tower stood in the air among the city’s tall buildings. The tower was in a quadrangular pyramid, similar to the Egyptian pyramids. However, it was black. not gold. Its base spanned the entire city centre of Suzhou, almost cover the city. The cold moonlight passed through the black tower and shone on the ground without any hindrance.
Six months ago, the tower suddenly appeared in the centre of Suzhou. Tang Mo had headed to the library for work. He had hastily left in the morning without watching the news. But once he was on the streets, all of Suzhou was abuzz.
The buses couldn’t be seen and the taxis wouldn’t stop.
All the cars were driving to the city centre in a frenzy. Tang Mo had just woken up and couldn’t figure things out. Then he looked up and saw the huge black tower.
All of his sleepiness disappeared in an instant.
Tang Mo almost thought it was 2012 and this was the end of the world.
How could there be such a big thing?
He didn’t see it when he got off work last night. How could it suddenly appear here?
At first, Tang Mo thought it was something the country constructed. People on the Internet often boasted that the country’s infrastructure was very good. They could build an overpass overnight, making the foreigners feel envy. He didn’t realize until he finally got a taxi and arrived in the city centre, looking up with the crowd. The tower was actually completely suspended in mid-air!
Completely suspended! At least 100 meters from the ground!
How could humans make a castle in the air?
The big LED screen in the city centre broadcasted the news. “At 8 o’clock in the morning, 1,021 strange towers appeared in our major cities and seas. It is also reported that at the same time, the black towers appeared on a large scale around the world. Please don’t panic. The country has set up relevant departments to investigate this black tower incident. We invited Professor Luo, of the Physics Department of Peking University, to explain the issues related to the black tower incident. We are now connected with Professor Luo…”
World! End! Day!
Everyone panicked. Tang Mo couldn’t go to work for two days. Many people drove to the countryside, trying to get as far away from the black tower as possible. However, the state maintained a very good social organization. Three days later, Tang Mo received a notice to return to work. After a week, many people came back after seeing that the black tower showed no movements.
Now it was six months later and the black towers had become tourist attractions.
In the first few months, people wearing white research uniforms came to the bottom of the black tower every day. They moved some large instruments and checked for unknown things. Now they only came to check once every three days, and the stores near the black tower resumed their operations.
Tang Mo supported his chin with a hand and looked calmly at the black tower. The bus turned a corner, leaving the black tower behind. It was no longer visible.
That evening, Tang Mo casually ate a meal before opening his computer and logging into QQ. Then a chat box popped up.
【Victor: I’m sorry. I’ve been busy these days and might not have time to play together. 】
Tang Mo looked at the chat window. The news he sent last week only got a reply today. It seemed he really was very busy.
【 Grinding Sugar: Never mind. We will play together when you are free. 】
After sending the message, Tang Mo opened the bridge game software. But at this time, Victor actually came online and replied quickly.
【 Victor: Come play a game. I have a little bit of time. 】
【 Grinding Sugar: Good [Smiley] 】
Tang Mo invited Victor into the room and the game soon began.
Tang Mo had been playing bridge for five years. When he was a freshman, he had a roommate who was obsessed with bridge, stating that it was a IQ test game. However, less than one month later, the roommate had moved onto other things while Tang Mo quietly continued to play bridge for five years.
In the middle of the game, Tang Mo found a chance to take the contract. His eyes flashed and he hadn’t played the card yet when he saw that Victor suddenly pulled out a K of clubs. Tang Mo’s mind became blank. Victor’s card killed his chance of making a contract.
Had Victor made a mistake?
Bridge was a 2V2 game. Tang Mo had met Victor on the Internet a year ago. The two people played together and had a tacit understanding. In addition, Victor’s skill was much better than Tang Mo’s. But Victor had been busy for the past six months and hadn’t played at all for two months. It wasn’t impossible that his skills were rusty.
Tang Mo once again looked at both sides of the table and suddenly realized, “Does he want a grand slam?”
His lips curved into a smile and Tang Mo calmly played a card.
Half an hour later, the game ended and Tang Mo opened QQ.
【 Grinding Sugar: GJ, you are just as good as before. 】
【 Victor: GJ. 】
【 Grinding Sugar: [Smiley] 】
Victor didn’t answer for a long time. Tang Mo guessed he was busy and didn’t send another message. Instead, he opened another game of bridge. When he came back, he saw that Victor had sent a message: 【 I remember you once said that there is a black tower next to where you work? 】
【 Grinding Sugar: Yes, it is around 200 metres away. What’s wrong? 】
【 Victor：Recently, it seems like there may be some problems. 】
Tang Mo saw this sentence and suddenly remembered the huckster pointing to the black tower and saying ‘God is coming.’ Victor and the huckster…
Tang Mo couldn’t help laughing. He laughed for a long time before sending a message back:【 Do you also below to the black tower is dangerous faction? However, I work in that area and can’t avoid it. 】
Victor didn’t continue the topic. He said a few more words before suddenly stating he was busy. The two people said goodbye and he went offline.
The next day at work, the huckster didn’t come. Director Wang was very surprised and asked Tang Mo, “The huckster didn’t come today? I think he is here more often than I am. What happened?”
Tang Mo replied, “Perhaps he is busy with his family.”
Director Wang waved his hand. “Eh, it is better that he didn’t come. Otherwise, we would have to look after him. Xiaotang, Xiaozhao, you worked hard today. Please find time to sort the G-category books.”
Sorting books was something the librarians had to do on a daily basis and wasn’t as leisurely as outsiders thought. Xiaozhao was going on a blind date that night. The young girl looked helpless at Tang Mo, making him say, “You go back first. I’ll do it alone.”
Xiaozhao thanked him. “Thank you Tang Mo. Next time, I will help you by working overtime.”
Tang Mo nodded lightly and didn’t say anything.
He worked overtime until 10 in the evening. Then Tang Mo left the library and sat on the last bus.
There were few people on the last bus. Apart from the driver, there was only Tang Mo and a middle-aged uncle. The uncle was soundly sleeping in his seat and Tang Mo’s phone was dead. He braced his chin and looked out the window in a bored manner.
Many shopping malls in the centre of the city were closed at this time. November nights were very cold, so there were few people on the street. The moonlight shone down coldly. Tang Mo looked at the flashing neon signs and the bus turned a corner. The huge black tower suddenly appeared in view.
After watching it for a whole six months, Tang Mo wasn’t interested in the tower anymore, just like many people. He just looked at it calmly.
Suddenly, he saw a small bug or maybe a bird. It was too far away to see clearly. In the moonlight, the dark little thing shone as it flew through the air towards the black tower. Tang Mo watched careless as the small thing foolishly flew forward and plunged towards the black tower.
Then it seemed to hit something and fell to the ground.
Tang Mo watched until the bus turned another corner and the black tower disappeared.
The name of the next stop rang out through the bus. Tang Mo was still stared outside the window, wondering what to eat tonight. Suddenly, his eyes widened and he turned his head quickly, wanting to see the black tower again. However, the bus had long gone and it was impossible to see the black tower behind the bus.
Tang Mo’s heart beat very quickly, as if it was about to jump out of his throat. After a long time, he calmed his heart.
“…Did I see wrong? The black tower is an optical illusion caused by pollution. It isn’t actually solid.”
This was the current mainstream view of society. Many people didn’t believe the black tower was real. It could be seen but not touched.
Tang Mo closed his eyes, wanting to forget that scene just now. But the scene kept playing over and over in his mind, giving him insomnia. He only managed to fall asleep in the middle of the night.
The next morning, he woke up at 7.30. Tang Mo hurriedly got up and brushed his teeth. He had to catch the 8 o’clock bus. He dressed quickly, picked up his backpack and left. The moment his hand had touched the doorknob, a melodious music was suddenly heard.
“Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bells…”
Tang Mo was startled and turned his head, but he couldn’t find the source of the sound in the room. The song ‘Jingle Bells’ kept playing. There were no lyrics but everyone knew the song.
Tang Mo listened carefully and couldn’t find the source. It seemed to be coming from all directions.
The next moment, Tang Mo’s body froze. He ran at a speed he never achieved before to the window and looked at the distant giant tower in the centre of Suzhou. Colourful lights were flashing from the tower and the melody of the song was constantly changing. Once the last note fell, the lights disappeared and everything became dark again.
A child-like voice spoke afterwards, in the unique high-pitched, sharp and loud tone of a child.
“Ding dong! November 15th, 2017. The earth is online.”