I seemed to be walking on and on forever through a peaceful, languid garden of rice paddies. This was no longer the territory of savages, but of an ancient and high civilization. Here and there farmers were plowing their fields, using water buffaloes. As a buffalo started to move, snowy herons would fly down and perch on its back and horns. But they flew away again in fright whenever a buffalo reached the edge of the field the farmer turned his plow.Once, as I was walking along, a moist wind began to blow and the sky quickly filled with black clouds. Herons were tossing in the wind like downy feathers. Soon the rain came. Rainfall in Burma is violent. Before I knew it, I was shut in by a thick spray. I could hardly breathe--I felt as if I were swimming.After a while the rain stopped and the sky cleared. All at once the landscape brightened and a vast rainbow hung across the sky. The mist was gone, as if a curtain had been lifted. And there, under the rainbow, the farmers were singing and plowing again.
The necropolis has never seemed a city of death to me; I know its purple roses (which other people think so hideous) shelter hundreds of small animals and birds. The executions I have seen performed and have performed myself so often are no more than a trade, a butchery of human beings who are for the most part less innocent and less valuable than cattle. When I think of my own death, or the death of someone who has been kind to me, or even of the death of the sun, the image that comes to my mind is that of the nenuphar, with its glossy, pale leaves and azure flower. Under flower and leaves are black roots as fine and strong as hair, reaching down into the dark waters.
People peep into boxes at moving stereoscopic prints, imagining they're in other worlds, and the crowd around a glassblower wonders whether icicles have formed in summer. Potted trees revive and suddenly look fresh when a florist sprinkles water on them, while papier-mâché turtles hanging out for sale move in the wind and take on souls.
Few witnesses agree, and fewer still were granted a glimpse of the Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine. Its course took it under the earth and down hills, gouging up the land beneath the luxurious homes of wealthy mariners and shipping magnates, under the muddy flats where sat the sprawling sawmill, and down along the corridors, cellars, and storage rooms of general stores, ladies' notions shops, apothecaries, and yes ... the banks.