This is very roughly translated from Yue Zhu (朱岳）”s story 工作场. The voice is weird in the original as well, that is not merely an artifact of the translation. And yes, this picture will greatly bias your interpretation of the story, but the anti-work anti-communist message is still there for you.
In the early morning hours, I run towards my workspace. My home is very far away, so I need to run a long time, need to run without stopping. Sometimes after running halfway I get discouraged, but quickly muster up some energy. With the tip of my nose aimed at my workplace, I run towards it, at great speeds.
Today (every today, yet another today), as in the past, I hear my deep nasal breathing as I run, then I begin to pant in great huffs and puffs. Yet, I keep at it. My coworkers are waiting for me. We’ll labor together at the workspace.
Although I’ve run with all my strength, I find that I’m still late when I reach the edges of the workspace. My coworkers are already there, and they become agitated, cautiously observing the workspace’s periphery. They see me running near and vigorously crane their necks, nervously watching me. They clearly haven’t recognized me yet. I jump up and in mid-air make a familiar gesture. They see it and start to scamper about with excitement. They scamper like this to welcome me, and to signify that a day’s work is about to begin. “You’re late again,” their posture conveys to me. I lower my head, expressing dejection; “It’s my fault….,” I respond with this posture. They forgive me, at which point we all jump up together!
At this time, the boss runs out from a hidden location and looks us over. Each of us hurries off to his station to start working. Our work is simply to grapple with our workspace in its every corner. I run over to the little corner that is mine and start to struggle and scrape with the workspace, kicking and stamping, unequivocally. When the struggle naturally reaches a certain point, I can no longer keep my balance and fall to the ground, but I still don’t let go of that corner that is mine, doing all I can to kick and stomp. I really want to clamp it down with my teeth, but that’s against work regulations.
My coworkers are also struggling with all their might, and for a while it’s as if the entire workspace has become a battlefield. As we battle, my coworkers and I sneak peeks at the boss. The boss is satisfied; he even wants to join us, but holds himself in check and then heads back to the hidden place that is his.
After the boss has disappeared from sight, we quietly relax a little. Our struggle with the workspace becomes more rhythmic. Having gone through the fierce fighting of a moment before, the workspace has again come to appreciate our might. It shakes ever so slightly, showing its docility. One coworker lies down, another sticks his head into a small hole. They’re loafing off– so early and they are already loafing off….. I yawn, really wanting to lie down right on the ground. Just then, there is a huge “Bang!” We immediately crane our necks. The boss comes out too, also craning his neck. What’s that noise? We look off into the distance together. Far off, at the periphery of the workspace, is a grassy lawn, and this lawn extends outwards endlessly all the way until it touches a cluster of rising clouds. Nothing appears and everything is quiet again. We relax a little, but keep a vigilant eye out.
The boss juts his teeth at a few coworkers to tell them to stand watch at the edge of the workspace, and they immediately run off in the direction of the big noise. They then vigorously crane their necks, looking out even further. We can only see their backs, but their backs put us at ease. “They are our tiny sentries,” those of us that stayed behind are thinking. We are so happy and gratified that we almost want to start jumping.
We start to work again, once again fiercely wrestling with the workspace. I can feel that half my body has sunken into this corner of the workspace that is mine. At first I’m startled, even a little afraid, but I soon begin to feel a bit proud: I’ve done it. It’s already become malleable and, with a little more effort, it will start to get some spring, and then I’ll have succeeded. Everyone will recognize me as an exceptional worker and I’ll be able to roll around the workspace to my heart’s content.
The boss again returns to the hidden location. I stop and take a breath. Since I’m already near success, why not rest a moment，gather myself, and then push through to the finish? With that thought, I stick my head into one of the workspace’s holes. Although the hole is small, it is extremely deep. From here I can hear the sound of the earth; it’s the sound of each and every workspace in the world brought together. All the holes in the workspaces are interconnected. I get a bit excited and start to blow deep down into the hole, and not long after a “Whoo Whoo” sound starts to come from deep within. It’s hard to be sure if this noise is coming from me or is a response coming from some other country, but I begin to revel in this “whoo whoo” sound.
All of a sudden, there’s a sharp pain in my back. I’ve been struck. I hurriedly pull out my head—it’s the boss. He’s watching me. “Are you looking to be fired?” His posture conveys this meaning. Finding myself in a bind, I lower my head and glance about. Just as I don’t know what to do next, there’s suddenly a disturbance off in the distance. The boss’s attention is instantly drawn to it. Our tiny sentries have discovered some suspicious characters: some guys poking about. The boss quickly signals for everyone to run over and handle these invaders as a group, so we charge over right away.
The invaders are a few weasely looking guys, poking around, seeing if there is any mischief they might be able to get away with at our workspace. The sight of us gathered and charging towards them scares them so badly they turn and run.
Most of my coworkers run to the edges of the workspace and stop, craning their necks, angrily watching the fleeing invaders. Only two other coworkers and I keep up the chase. The invaders don’t dare look back and, without stopping, we chase them quite far. When we get back, the boss has already forgotten about my loafing and on seeing our triumphant return is so happy he could almost jump. I bet that he wanted to keep on chasing with us, but held himself in check. He goes back to the hidden location.
After a bit of dallying about, it’s already time for midday break and we we’ll go have something to eat. For us workers, this is a happy and relaxing moment. We call to each other and trot over to where we eat.
The place we eat is on the outer periphery of the workspace. It’s bounded by several different workspaces and is a neutral territory. When we run up to it, there are already guys from other workspaces there. When they see us, they stop what they’re doing, crane their necks, and watch us. It isn’t friendly at all. Me and my co-workers also crane our necks, return their stares angrily, and move towards the food, one step at a time. They see how determined we are, are frightened, and move a little bit away. We begin gulping down some food. After a little bit, the guys we chased off are tired of waiting and they start moving this way, pressuring us, step by step. This time, they are more determined than we are and we recede. By repeating this tug-of-war some ump-teen times, we are finally full; and having eaten our fill, our spirits soar and we jump up high into the air!
Our break is now half-over. Some co-workers choose to defecate, while some others go back to the workspace to lie down for a while. Two remaining co-workers and I decide to stroll about. We start to run along the border of the workspace, we gradually depart from the elliptical arc of the workspace and run to the grassy lawn. One co-worker starts cheerfully rolling about on the lawn, the other cranes his neck looking out towards our workspace- don’t know what he’s looking for. I breathe in the lawn’s clean fresh air and continue onward walking deeper into the lawn.
I see someone standing in the center of the field and become curious. Without thinking twice, I run off towards him. Once I’ve run up in front of him I realize he’s extraordinarily tall; I have to strain to look upwards before I can see his face. He’s skinny, with two surprisingly long arms. I stare at him, suddenly regretting it and wanting to run off, but he’s already discovered me and begun speaking to me. I can’t understand what he’s saying, but I’m entranced by his voice. I nervously watch the shape of his mouth, earnestly listening. I want to let him know I’m listening, and furthermore, that I understand.
“I stand here like an airplane; I have passengers, but they aren’t real passengers. I carry them into the skies and then, with parachutes on their backs, they jump down. One after another, and one after the other they jump into the boundless void. They are just like seeds, and after they hit land they will grow forth miraculous stuffs, some scenery, they become scenery. I will continue to fly, fly to a distant place where there are real passengers, honest to goodness passengers, and I will carry them into the sky and bring them here. They don’t have parachutes and the will not jump into the void, one after another. They will admire the scenery along the way, the scenery that the skydivers have become. I hope they can see some wonderful scenery.”
While the stranger is saying this, I’m entirely frozen in place, my eyes opened wide, understanding nothing, but unable to stir. I begin to have a vague sense of danger. “Have I come upon a bad person? Have I been hypnotized? Am I going to be beaten? Am I going to be carried off? Will I die?” I nervously wonder.
“So, are you willing to be my passenger?” the stranger invites me. But I am unable to answer and unable to run away. I don’t move at all. I’m frightened.
When I return to normal, it feels like it’s already been a long time since the stranger disappeared. It seems like he asked me so many times “will you be my passenger?” Yet that could also be a hallucination. In the lawn outside the workspace we often succumb to hallucinations. When my mind recovers, I find I’m squatting on the ground like a big bird preparing to fly. This posture seems to say “I want to fly”…NO…No.., I shake my head and turn around preparing to return to the workspace. I then notice my two co-workers observing me, they are concerned for me. I run towards them, and seeing that I’m safe and sound, they start happily scampering around me. To return this kind sentiment, I spin round really fast until I’m so dizzy I can’t see straight and I fall to the ground.
Break is over, and we run back to the workspace. I still haven’t recovered from my recent experience. I stand in the corner watching the” patter patter” of my sweat dripping to the ground. I stare at my sweat as it is quickly breathed in by the workspace. I start again to struggle with the workplace—- “Who says I’ll give in? !”
Just as I’m forgetting my work, another huge “Bang” sounds out. I jump up in alarm as do my other co-workers. We all vigorously crane our necks. This time, the noise came from the direction of the boss’s hidden location and we run over there together. The boss is standing there in the hidden place, craning his neck, nervously looking on in anticipation. We watch him in anticipation. But nothing appears. We relax, but the boss is still vigorously craning his neck. He’s had a shock and can’t calm himself down, his nerves are spent. We can only leave him here, quietly backing out to our own work corners. We start to rhythmically struggle with the workspace, also sneaking peeks at the exit of the boss’s hidden area. After a long time, he comes out, looking weary and exhausted. He looks us over for a moment and then lowers his head and runs towards his home. He needs rest, he needs sleep.
After the boss leaves, we gather around in a circle and play a game called “we’re pretty grood,” and at its end come together in a group dance. Rather than say we’ve forgotten our work, it would be better to say that our work has dissipated of its own accord. We dance and dance, circle after circle spinning round, on and on until the sun sets in the west. It’s time to call it a day and each of us viciously slaps at the corner we are responsible for. We frantically nod our goodbyes at each other and then run off towards our own homes.
On the way back, I can’t help but think, I’m going to have a sleep in my home, dream, and then ‘tomorrow’ will arrive and I will again run to the workspace. Sooner or later there will be a day when our workspace becomes sleek and bouncy. We’ll be able to prance and move about at amazing speeds without the slightest effort. We will become one with our workspace. Just thinking about it, my body is fully invigorated; and, with my full might, I start to jump!