The Metamorphosis in Hong Kong

by Dawna Fung

Photo credit: Raita Futo/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

I PRODDED something wet, like a mucus or slug, but with some thin fur. My eyes widened in horror and spent a few seconds clearing my mind. Then I slowly turned my head and caught a glimpse of a long elephant’s trunk, which was lying next to my pillow. Its two nostrils still trembling, as if it had something to tell me.

I never fled through the sewers. But I dreamt of it tonight. It was dark and narrow. Someone with a torch said the gas was poisoning – we must find a way out in twenty minutes, or we must go back. I kept following him and tried not to touch the sticky walls, although my skin was already soaked in rusted water.

I think I somehow read a newspaper writing about the process of fleeing via an underground pipe network before – they described it in this way. But then I realise that I couldn’t find the newspaper. I have no evidence to prove my memory – maybe I was mistaken.

When I was still thinking about the matter, that elephant’s trunk disappeared. Its whole existence was gone when I just regained consciousness. I reached for the pillow and it’s dry. So I thought that was another dream of my night, and got out of bed. It was 6 a.m. in the morning. Then I went back to campus.

I ate char siu rice at the canteen. When I stepped out of the canteen, I caught sight of four enormous grey pillars with some intricate wrinkles on the surface. I remembered there used to stand a copper sculpture of countless twisted human bodies piling up. Some kind-hearted students clean it every year. I did not clean it, but I was there when someone else did.

I was trying to figure out what these four pillars were, when one of them suddenly bent a bit and trudged to a further place. I flinched in horror. These were the elephant’s legs! The moment I raised my head to verify the whole elephant’s presence, it was gone.

That weird? I thought. It was like a photo-editing app. You selected something that you disliked without logic and then clicked “delete”. Then it vanished into thin air without a sound. A big dumb animal just disappeared. I looked around – but other students were unusually calm.

So I reassured myself that it was just another illusion. I walked on University Street as if nothing happened. The warm sunlight was shining through the transparent ceiling. The surrounding walls were clean without graffiti. Suddenly, I saw a pool of red blood in the centre of the street. Other passengers seemed unable to see it and walked as usual with their laptops and coffee cups.

This pool of blood was lying between those bricks that were peacefully in order. I thought of a young protester I met on the street a few years ago. He was alone, staring at his swelling hand groaning with pain. I fumbled helplessly to him and asked if there was anything I could do. He shook his head in agony.

It was impossible – a pool of blood appeared on University Street without being noticed or removed. It didn’t make any sense. I decided to bypass it calmly. But my mind couldn’t stop wondering what happened, so I turned my head to have one final glance. At that peculiar moment, I caught sight of an elephant in the shrub. It looked terrible, panting heavily.

My hands were shaking, but I still hugged the elephant. I closed my eyes, caressing its rough skin and whispering in a low voice, “don’t be afraid.”

When I opened my eyes again, my hand hung in the air. The elephant was gone.

I’m not sure whether I can live with the elephant’s illusion for the rest of my life. Others might think that I’m mad, but how could I possibly ignore such a huge elephant? How could I deceive myself that it doesn’t exist? I was thinking about these questions the whole time I walked to the classroom. I planned to interview someone for my journalism homework, simply talking about how he spent the past few decades of life. But the press relation officer asked me, “Which media you’re working with? Not the yellow ones, right?” I felt sad. What yellow? Is this how you see me? I assured her that we were just focusing on the past few decades of life. That woman responded, “I know! But still we have to vet!” I said okay.

Suddenly, I heard something strange on the phone. I pulled it further, but that voice was screaming aloud, as if someone was being tortured and asking for help. It reverberated within the mini phone speaker, but the classroom was so big that no one could hear that except me. I didn’t know why, but I recognised that it was the wailing of an elephant.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I think I understand something. Soon, I cried wordlessly. These bullies and censorship go fuck yourself. My sobs grew louder gradually and became howls of anguish, but other people did not even turn their heads. I cried even harder.

I felt that when my tears rolled down my cheek, it spent a longer time to get to my chin; some creases were above my eyelids, so heavy that they sagged my eyeballs. In my cloudy vision, I seemed to see a long trunk connecting to my face.

I became an elephant.

I fell heavily with my large bottoms hitting the white tiles. It was almost like an earthquake, but others still sit in the room coiled in silence. I was exhausted, but I continued weeping, wistfully and desperately, crying my heart out.