Valley of Terror, page 1
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2009 by Zhou Haohui.
Translation copyright © 2017 by Bonnie Huie.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Previously published as 《摄魂谷之雅库玛的诅咒》 in 2009 by China Pictorial Publishing House and 《摄魂谷》 in 2015 by Hainan Publishing House in Shanghai, China.
Translated from Simplified Chinese by Bonnie Huie. First published in English by AmazonCrossing in 2017.
Published by AmazonCrossing, Seattle.
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and AmazonCrossing are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by M. S. Corley.
Chapter 1 YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE
Chapter 2 AN OSTRICH IS FRIGHTENED
Chapter 3 A MYSTERIOUS PROPHECY
Chapter 4 THE FIRST PATIENT
Chapter 5 A MADMAN’S SCIENCE
Chapter 6 THE SECRETS OF THE BLOOD VIAL
Chapter 7 DEMONIC POWERS
Chapter 8 THE RAIN GOD’S TEARS
Chapter 9 THE RECURRENCE OF A BLOODBATH
Chapter 10 A CENTURY OF SPIRITUAL TALK
Chapter 11 MYSTERY MAN
Chapter 12 NIGHT RENDEZVOUS
Chapter 13 THE HISTORICAL EVENTS OF MOPAN MOUNTAIN
Chapter 14 DEEP IN THE FOREST
Chapter 15 SKINNED, THEN STUFFED
Chapter 16 PULLING OUT TONGUES
Chapter 17 AN OMINOUS CATCH
Chapter 18 THE DEMON TAKES HUMAN FORM
Chapter 19 THE HAMO PEOPLE
Chapter 20 THE DINNER BANQUET
Chapter 21 A DISASTROUS CURSE
Chapter 22 THE PLOT TO EXTERMINATE
Chapter 23 THE DEMON’S DEATH
Chapter 24 THE VIAL THIEF
Chapter 25 A TRIP TO THE VALLEY
Chapter 26 GHOST IN THE CEMETERY
Chapter 27 BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
Chapter 28 THE PRIESTESS REEMERGES
Chapter 29 A FAMILIAR FACE
Chapter 30 ENTERING PRISON
Chapter 31 CLUES EMERGE
Chapter 32 JAILBREAK
Chapter 33 EXPLOSION AT THE LAKE
Chapter 34 THE DECISIVE BATTLE
Chapter 35 HISTORICAL TRUTHS
Chapter 36 GENERAL LI’S DESCENDANTS
Chapter 37 CASE CLOSED
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
It was nightfall, but the streetlights had not yet been turned on. The sky outside the window was obscured by the figures of trees, making the long, narrow corridor seem even dimmer than usual. The ceiling and walls had been scrubbed to a ghastly shade of white. Combined with a murky gray concrete floor, it gave the entire space an oppressive atmosphere.
The clicking of footsteps suddenly cut through the silence. A young woman hesitated at the door from the stairwell, her wide eyes surveying the dark and eerie passageway.
An elderly gentleman outfitted in a white doctor’s coat pushed past the young woman.
“Come with me.”
His quick footsteps made not even the slightest sound.
The young woman stood still, anxiously watching him disappear into the darkness. Then she hurried to catch up, her heels striking the hard floor.
She followed close behind until they reached a dead end. A closed wooden door appeared in front of them. The gentleman took out a key and turned to face the young woman. She bit her lip nervously, then nodded. The elderly gentleman inserted the key into the lock, the slight sound reverberating loudly.
The gentleman cleared his throat. “Uh—”
A bloodcurdling scream tore through the room. Though the young woman seemed to have anticipated it, she couldn’t help shuddering. The elderly gentleman was long past being startled. As if nothing had happened, he turned the key.
Behind the wooden door stood a wall of wrought-iron bars. A human figure could vaguely be seen huddled in one corner of the cell. Visibly terrified, he was shaking from head to toe. The shriek of despair had come from precisely this source.
The elderly gentleman flicked a switch by the door, and the fluorescent lights in the room instantly turned on. The light seemed to make the man curled in the corner calm down somewhat, and he stopped screaming. His eyes widened as he peered out the door and at the visitors, though he still looked horror-struck. A moment later, he abruptly opened his mouth, and a stream of odd-sounding words burst forth.
The elderly gentleman turned quizzically toward the young woman.
The young woman nodded. “That’s right. This is the native dialect of the Hamo people.”
The elderly gentleman’s eyes lit up. “So what is he saying?”
The man was jabbering excitedly, his pitch rising as if trying to stress an important point.
The young woman furrowed her brow, straining to make out the words. “The Valley of Terror . . . Demons are coming?”
“Demons?” the elderly gentleman asked. “What demons?”
The young woman shook her head and looked at the man, asking him in the Hamo dialect, “Demons? What demons are you talking about?”
The man suddenly stood up and began to walk toward the metal bars. He stared into the woman’s face, his gaze like a dagger.
The elderly gentleman rubbed his palms together, unable to contain his excitement. “This is wonderful. You can communicate with him!”
At that moment, the man reached the side of the cell. He thrust his arms through the bars and grabbed for the young woman, but the elderly gentleman reacted quickly, pulling her just out of reach. The man’s hands brushed against her face, leaving behind the sensation of cold.
The man violently shook the bars. Then, staring foggily into the distance, he let out a bone-chilling cry: “Ya—ku—ma!”
It was as if all the world’s terror, despair, and pain were concentrated in that single inhuman cry. The elderly man and the young woman trembled. They couldn’t help looking all around themselves, searching for the abominable horror about to descend.
YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE
The city of Longzhou in Hebei Province
When the case first began to unfold, Chief Inspector Luo Fei thought it was a prank.
The incident report was filed by three students from the Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering Program at Longzhou Polytechnic Institute.
The first student, Zou Wenbin, was the resident adviser for the other two, a male and a female. It was late, 11:47 p.m., when they filed the report. According to their account, the following events took place:
That evening, around 8:10 p.m., a boy named Yu Ziqiang suddenly screamed and rushed out of the classroom where several engineering students were studying. Before the others knew what was going on, he had disappeared into the night, and he failed to return to the dorm by lights-out. Attempts were made to reach him on his cell phone, but no one answered. His RA, Zou Wenbin, contacted Yu Ziqiang’s roommate, Zhang Hong, and Xu Ting, who had witnessed it. Together, they went to file a report.
“Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do right now,” Luo told them. “The party has to be gone for at least f
It was evident the three students were frustrated with the detective’s response. Xu Ting in particular seemed to want to say more, but in the end, she left with the others.
Luo did not feel that he had handled the case inappropriately. Not only had he followed procedure, but the case just didn’t give cause for serious alarm. Yu Ziqiang had run away of his own accord, even if the reason was unknown. These students are just overreacting, Luo thought. If you took it seriously every time something like this happened, you’d drop dead from overwork!
But the situation quickly grew complex. Early the next morning, some senior citizens were exercising in an out-of-the-way spot on the south bank of the Yudai River, which encircled the city of Longzhou. The roads running along both banks were little used and poorly maintained—they didn’t even have lights. As the sun rose, the seniors spotted a body. Cards in his wallet confirmed it was Yu Ziqiang.
Accompanied by forensic specialist Zhang Yu, Luo hurried to the scene, where they found the victim lying facedown on the riverbank. He was fully clothed, and his posture appeared natural. There were no indications of a struggle, no traces of blood, and no suspicious items anywhere nearby.
However, when they rolled the body over, what they saw on the victim’s face set off alarm bells.
Yu Ziqiang’s face was frozen in a grimace of pain. His facial muscles were so contorted, his nose appeared askew. But even more unsettling were his eyes.
Brimming with fear, his eyes were open so wide they were practically bursting out of their sockets, and the veins were clearly visible. It was enough to make even the seasoned investigators shiver.
“What do you think?” Luo asked.
Zhang Yu carefully examined key areas along the body. “The corpse is fully intact and undamaged on the surface. There are no signs of a violent blow. The mucus and saliva around the nose and mouth suggest that he may have been in the early stages of expelling some form of toxin. It doesn’t appear to be a homicide, but as far as cause of death goes, we’ll need to wait for a full examination. It’s possible he had some kind of congenital condition, but that’s just a guess.”
“What about the time of death?”
“Mmm, nine to eleven hours ago, so between eight and ten last night,” Zhang Yu said after giving the victim’s wrist a quick squeeze.
But Luo had his own routine. After gripping the victim’s other wrist, he flashed a grin. “Last night at 8:47 p.m.”
“The time of death. Last night at 8:47 p.m.”
“How can you be so precise?” Zhang Yu shook his head in disbelief. “Even with all my years as a medical examiner, I can’t pinpoint the time like that.”
“My forensics expertise is no match for yours, but I have my own methods.” Luo turned over the victim’s wrist to reveal a watch. “Take a look. When the victim fell, his watch struck the ground, breaking the glass and stopping the hands!”
Further investigation revealed that the victim was quite physically fit, and medical records showed no significant illnesses in his family. The investigators spoke with students who’d been in the classroom and learned they had been completely absorbed in their work until Yu Ziqiang’s bloodcurdling scream and subsequent flight. None of them could offer an explanation for the boy’s behavior, and Luo was frustrated by the lack of clues.
But then he got a call from Xu Ting, the female student who’d seemed so upset the night before. She asked to speak with him privately at the institute.
Xu Ting was a demure, gangly girl with thick black glasses. She had been sitting behind Yu Ziqiang during the study session, and one look told Luo that she was distraught.
“The whole time, I felt like I was seeing things. Everyone else was acting normal, so I thought it must’ve just been me. But then Ziqiang—why would he drop dead for no apparent reason? I’m—I’m really scared.”
“Scared? What are you scared of?” Luo prodded.
“Last night, all these things appeared. I don’t know what they were, and no one else seemed to see them—” The girl stared at Luo as if seeking courage from him.
Luo knitted his brow. “I’m sorry, I don’t follow. Things appeared?”
Xu Ting kept rubbing her hands together anxiously. “It’s hard to explain. My classmates would laugh at me, but I have to tell you. I could feel that there was something terrible there, floating in the air in the classroom. Or maybe it was outside the window, in the dark. But it was there; it was real. I could hardly keep from screaming myself.”
“So what you’re saying is that you think you and Yu Ziqiang felt the same thing?”
Xu Ting nodded vigorously. “Yes. He must have sensed it before I did. I noticed that he seemed panicky, and he was looking around like he was searching for something—probably for like five minutes. Then I got scared, too. Suddenly, I realized there was this terrible thing, and it was right there beside me!”
Luo felt as though he were listening to a campy ghost story. Yet he could not refrain from asking, “And then what happened?”
“Then Ziqiang turned around and stared at me. His eyes seemed kind of unfocused, like maybe he wasn’t even looking at me, exactly. But he definitely saw something, because the look on his face suddenly got even worse. I was terrified, and I started shaking all over, but I couldn’t say a word. It wasn’t until Ziqiang screamed that I snapped back to my senses.” The girl gasped for air. “You know what happened next. Ziqiang rushed out of the classroom like he’d gone mad, and he never came back.”
Luo could only presume that Xu Ting was telling the truth. He shook his head sadly, then asked, “What about you? How did you feel afterward?”
“After Ziqiang took off, I felt much better. The terror went away as quickly as it came. Maybe the thing followed him.”
“The thing?” Luo couldn’t stifle a chuckle. “What thing? If all those kids could see Yu Ziqiang, what kind of ‘thing’ could possibly have followed him?”
“No one else saw it, but it was really there. I really felt it!” the girl exploded. “And it must have followed Ziqiang! Otherwise, why would he have taken off running, and why did he die?!”
There was nothing more Luo could say. He squeezed the girl’s hand and tried to calm her down, thinking, I’d better check out that classroom myself.
No matter how Luo looked at it, the classroom was completely normal. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the desks, the podium, the walls, or the blackboard. The only notable features were the north-facing windows and the Chinese parasol tree outside. At night, the silhouette of its swaying branches might cause a person to imagine all kinds of ghosts and monsters. Even so, there was no way it could provoke the level of terror Xu Ting had described.
Luo questioned the other students again to find out if any of them experienced what Xu Ting did, but his efforts were futile.
“Did I feel terrified? I mean, yeah, maybe a little after I heard that Yu Ziqiang died, but I was just kinda shocked when he screamed and all.”
“Scared? No, man. Actually, I was in a great mood last night! Why would I have been scared?”
“Something in the room? I dunno. I sure didn’t feel anything. Maybe I was studying too hard—I have an exam coming up. Speaking of which, I have to get back to work, okay?”
When Luo left the engineering school, he couldn’t help wondering if Xu Ting was pulling his leg. He stopped to eat at a tiny restaurant, and by the time he returned to the station, it was already past 2:00 p.m. Zhang Yu had been waiting for a long time with the autopsy results.
“Well,” Zhang Yu declared, “you can put the interrogations of local cab drivers on hold.”
“Why is that?”
“The victim did not take any form of motorized transportation.”
“Wait, how do you know? And how could he hav
Zhang Yu handed over the autopsy report. “See for yourself.”
Luo’s eyes honed in on the most important line on the page, the cause of death.
“Physical overexertion?” Luo mumbled. He’d been on the police force for many years, but this was the first time he’d seen those words in an autopsy report.
“Basically, the victim ran himself to death. From the time he left the school, he remained in a constant state of running until his heart gave out and he died.”
“You’re saying he ran six miles in under forty minutes?” Luo was gaping in disbelief.
Zhang Yu nodded.
“But how could someone in such good shape run himself to death? And why?”
Zhang Yu shrugged. “That’s your job to figure out.”
Luo remained standing there, dumbstruck. There was just no logical explanation. Had Xu Ting been right after all? Had Yu Ziqiang been chased by a demonic force?
AN OSTRICH IS FRIGHTENED
At noon on the same day, an unusual wedding was being held at the Jinhua Grand Hotel. The young newlyweds were ethnically Korean, and the celebration featured their heritage. Members of the immediate family were seated at two tables at the front of the hall, all of them flamboyantly outfitted in traditional Korean dress.
After three rounds of drinks, the bride and groom stepped to the center of the floor to dance gracefully, hand in hand, to the song being boisterously sung by their friends and relatives. Soon, some of the other ethnically Korean guests moved up to the front tables, dancing exuberantly alongside them.
Naturally, this delighted the Han Chinese guests, who were accustomed to rowdy wedding games and pranks. Though they could neither sing nor dance along with their Korean counterparts, they drank to their hearts’ delight, chattering away and likewise making merry.
Everyone was having the time of their lives—except Chen Bin. Not yet thirty years old, Chen Bin was an old classmate of the groom’s who’d just happened to be in Longzhou and was invited at the last minute. There was a strange look on his face as he surveyed the crowd, panting uncontrollably.
He hadn’t had all that much to drink, yet he felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. The feeling gradually intensified until he staggered from his chair and raced to the men’s room. Back in the rowdy hall, no one noticed that Chen Bin had left, and no one wondered why he never came back.