Diviner (night school)

Hu Fang’s latest piece of fiction on being seduced into learning the art of fortune-telling

By Hu Fang

Now that I’ve reached a point at which I find life extremely confusing, a service that appears before me offering ‘self-knowledge’ is a temptation I have no way of resisting: all you have to do is face this computer screen, enter your date of birth and you can receive a comprehensive explanation of your personality, even your fate. As soon as you learn the mysteries of your destiny, you understand the direction of your actions and are no longer so depressed about your life. So why do I still hesitate? Why don’t I make the move and take my fate into my own hands?

Before I learned about this service, I was wasting away at an actual night school. Here, there are schemers, seducers and businessmen who loudly sing the praises of friendship; there are show-offs, mischief-makers, ass-kissers and opportunists; there are greedy types and go-with-the-flow types. And of course, there is also my circle of kind, meek friends, with the usual intrinsic amitiés and enmities among us. As for me, a congenital conspirator incapable of indifference, I perpetually affect the pose of raising a glass to everybody else.

Now, at a place offering affordable fortune-telling, with splendid flowers packed in Ziploc bags and the skulls of martyrs stored in the freezer, everyone is too shy to bring up the reason we are assembled. Sounds of laughter rise and fall, drowning out our individual humiliations. Just a glance, the hint of a smile, the grazing of fingertips: temptation is like a video playing on a loop. An anthropoid skeleton hangs from the ceiling, and people flutter through the air, as if they are going to flesh out this empty set of bones. Tonight, beneath the piercing LEDs, her beauty is thoroughly exposed, her senile expression forming an exciting contrast to her facelift-tightened skin. After a few words of conventional introduction, she quickly reveals all the secrets of my life to me. In that moment, I am fully hypnotised by emotion. We are already rushing towards the ultimate form of human evolution.

There is an endless stream of latecomers, and the length of the evening unfolds without limits, concealing and delaying the course of education. This may explain why so many people and affairs are halted here, unable to move, leading to knowing smiles from the onlookers who gently bare their teeth, with no impediments or hang-ups, no desires or requests, as if they believe: those tempters will ultimately become innocents, and proceeding to the next step, this will become an inevitable sublimation. This is how things work in the present.

This is also why this night school – the place offering affordable fortune-telling – needn’t worry about attracting students. If you repent tonight, then your graduation will undoubtedly come at daybreak. The cross-shaped medal will adorn your shoulder, even if you’re still unsure of whether or not you should pull the jewelled sword from the wall and charge towards the crowd.

I don’t know if it’s providence: just when I am extremely confused about my life, a service appears before me that offers ‘self-knowledge’, allowing me to drop out of my actual night school, and return to the site of my temptation, return to the screen of fleshy pleasures. Alone, I wipe off the dusty screen, as if I am repeatedly dusting off a bronze statue of a border princess just emerged from the earth. 

First published in the Summer 2017 issue of ArtReview Asia