Chapter 712: A Dream too Realistic
“Twain!” An enraged voice rang by his ear, shaking him from his thoughts.
He lifted his head and looked at the figure in front of him with dazed eyes. Stood in front of him was a bald man wearing black-framed spectacles, who looked a lot older than his actual age. This man looked familiar…
Wait, isn’t he that department head from Twain’s company? Right?
Twain looked to his left and right, a little space formed by a cluster of office desks appeared in front of him. Everyone lifted their heads to look over, but after seeing Twain, they lowered their heads to continue what they were doing.
Wasn’t this where he worked last time? Twain was no stranger to this place. After he graduated from university, he had looked for hundreds of jobs before he finally settled for an admin position.
“You stayed awake to watch soccer again? What kind of a place do you think this is, Twain? This is a company, not a bed in your house!” The department head realised that Twain was not even looking at him, which enraged him. He leaned down to stare at Twain angrily. This time, Twain turned his head towards him, but he still was not looking at him.
He was still in a daze. Why did he appear here? Shouldn’t he be on the coach’s bench in the city stadium orchestrating the contest? Dunn? Kerslake? And his soccer players, where were they? Did Newcastle even the score? At this point, his train of thought stopped abruptly. There was still hidden pain in his heart.
Oh, so everything was just a dream… The corners of his lips raised. It was a dream… Should he say ‘that’s great’ or should he be regretting?
George Wood, Sophia, Michael, Gavin, Dunn, Des Walker, Kenny Burns and Shania. They were all characters I imagined, characters who only appeared in my dreams. How was it possible that a small worker scrambling for a living in China became a super coach who led a team to promote and win two consecutive championships? How could a pretty and bubbly world-class supermodel, a superstar, fall for me, a useless homebody? What was it if not a daydream?
Nothing happened, so he lost nothing, yet that type of pain felt all the more palpable.. For some unknown reason, there was a hollowness filling his chest.
“I gave you a chance, little guy. But whether you could become the best soccer star in England depends on yourself. ”
“Hey, Tony! If we aren’t in the Premier League next season, I don’t mind showing you what a hardcore soccer fan looks like!”
“Wait till I have money in the future, I will definitely buy Nottingham Forest! Then ask you to be its head coach!”
“Here lies the beloved son of Michael Bernard and Fiona Bernard, Nottingham Forest’s most loyal fan and George Wood’s lifelong supporter Gavin Bernard.”
“Victory! I only want victory! I only want the championships! Other than that, I do not accept any other outcome! Let them be scared! Let them curse us! The worse they curse, the more it proves that we’re might!”
“From the second level league to European Champions, Tony Twain and his team took four years. It was as if we saw Brian Clough’s shadow… that glorious team reappeared in our vision. This isn’t an accident, this is a red storm! Nottingham Forest, a team who won the European champions in two consecutive years, and descending in Europe for the third time!”
“So sorry, Tony. The club is unable to take out money to satisfy your needs… economical crisis, we have no money. ”
“I can’t wait any more… I love you, Tony uncle, I love you.”
All of these experiences that happened to me which made me laugh, cry, happy and sad, how could all of this have been a dream? What kind dream would have such realistic feelings? If dreams were really this realistic, then they would not be called dreams. That was reality, and this was a dream.
Twain jerked his head up violently and glared at his department head who was still scolding him.
“What kind of a place do you think this is? We could easily find a kid like you who’s fresh out of university! Don’t think that being here makes you amazing. Let me tell you this: if I fire you now, there are so many people who would kill to take your place! You think a thousand dollars is too little, but even if it were only $700 there would still be a lot of people trying their best to snatch your job! Why are you looking at me? Not convinced? If you’re not convinced, then leave! I’ve tolerated you for a long time. Your productivity is average and your temper is terrible. Young people these days are really getting worse…”
Twain took a look at that visage, contorted with rage and a hint of fear, and burst out laughing.. This was who he had been in his dreams. Here he had been, sucking up to his manager for a year. Because he could not fit in with his peers, they left him out of good things and he was discriminated even in work, while those who hit it off with this old fogey could draw a better income. After a year of hard work, he was still unable to save much, but the others who buttered up the boss could afford a car after just a year. They kept all their complaints to themselves for fear that, should they lose this one, it would be difficult to find another job. It was as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders and he was forced to trudge forward with his back hunched.
Now, he finally realised this place did not suit. He was totally different from the colleagues who had their heads ducked in fear. He did not belong here, he belonged in the battlefield for real men, a battlefield filled with passion and hot blood! One was one and two was two; a win was a win, a loss was a loss. Legitimacy belonged to the victor.
What was the point in nesting here, in this tight space? No matter how big his aspirations,, how bold his spirit, and all the dreams he had, all of that were trapped in this small space with no means of escape. Trapped, and then assimilated into the infinite space much like this one only to slowly disappear and vanish, as if they had never been a part of his life.
After working tirelessly for half his life, his earnings could not even buy a toilet in a new house. The rich changed their girlfriends daily; they only needed to reveal the goods in their wallet for gorgeous and sexy women to flock to them . But for Twain, he could only jack off to Japanese porn while fantasizing that God blessed him with a girl. He worked hard to butter up his boss, saying nothing but empty words to him, sacrificing his dignity and his values just to cling on to this job during such a tumultuous economic time.
The older generation resented Twain’s generation for always falling short of expectations, repeatedly emphasising in a sincere tone that theirs was a generation that had failed. The younger generation spoke in their Internet slang, in a way that subverted the mainstream, “You’ve been eliminated, this world is ours.” The best way to vent was to drink beer and eat grilled meat from the roadside stores while cursing at the state of China’s soccer.
The worst part about his life being reduced to this was having to live it, but what else could he do?Unsteady at thirty, lost at forty. As he looked back on his life now, he asked himself, “What have I been doing? What did I leave behind? In the next half of his life, what would he do?
The short ceiling that made it hard to breathe. The dividers that limited thoughts to a 1×1 meter space, where exceeding was overstepping. The white lights that cast a ghostly glow onto faces.
Twain really wanted to laugh out loud. This was a place he once worked in. This was a place he almost surrendered in.This was the dream, and a most ridiculous one!
He pushed away the department head who was blocking his path and walked straight outside. The department head who almost toppled growled furiously, “Where are you going! You’re still on the clock! Twain! You fool, if you take one step out this office, you’re fired. Fired, you hear me? Fired! You’ll be fired!!”
The office lobby was completely silent, save for the old man’s heavy breathing. Maybe he had never scolded someone so agitatedly to the point of aggression before. He was panting like an old man who had just gone at it with his wife who somehow had more stamina the more she aged.
From where Twain stood at the entrance, he turned around to look at the pitiful department head and mocked him, “It’s none of your business where I’m going, you old fogey.”
After saying that, he took a step and walked out without turning back.
“… I don’t know if this counts as good news for Nottingham Forest’s opponents. Even though I don’t think this news will make anyone happy… Tony Twain, while orchestrating the match between Nottingham Forest and Newcastle this afternoon, fainted suddenly and was sent to the hospital. Currently, he’s still unconscious…”
The newscaster reported the breaking news with a stern face. The screen then cut to the hospital entrance of the Royal College of Medicine in Nottingham University. Reporters were flocking to the hospital; rental cars were endlessly driving in to park nearby and, one after the other, reporters alighted from the cars.
A white-haired man wearing gold silk glasses was trapped in the middle of the crowd, like a canoe in the middle of the sea of roaring waves. He waved his arms, shouting, “We’re doing our best to save him, but his condition is still critical. I can’t guarantee anything! Could you all please make way and stop blocking the main entrance? I’m sorry, I can’t say anything because I don’t fully understand the situation. We will call a press conference just for this, but it won’t be here and it won’t be now.”
A group of people who were sitting in a coach, lifted their heads to watch television on the bus announcing all of these, and became speechless. They were the Nottingham Forest players who had just ended their match and were preparing to return home. The competition had not ended when Twain suddenly collapsed. Initially no one reacted. The Newcastle players were still celebrating their goal. Nottingham Forest’s players were taken aback and did not know what to do; the fans could only use their silence to express their discontent.
The commentator had still been teasing Tony Twain, and wanted to see his expression for the current situation. Once the screen changed, the person who was supposed to be standing could not be seen on the coach’s seat. Instead, captured on screen was the assistant coach, Dunn, who jumped out from the coach’s seats. Following Dunn’s actions, everyone then saw the main protagonist who were lying on the ground and was not moving.
Dunn shouted to attract the attention of the surrounding people, and everyone panicked. Even the Newcastle players who were initially celebrating their goal were helplessly looking over to Nottingham Forest’s coach seats. George Wood ran over to the side of the field; following him was the head referee who realised something was off.
Newcastle’s fans stopped singing. The city stadium fell silent in that moment.
The stretcher, meant for rescuing injured players, was brought over. The ambulance stopped right outside of the stadium also charged in. Even after Twain was carried onto the ambulance and sent to the hospital, the majority of the people in the stadium was still in shock.
The match ended, resulting in Nottingham Forest’s fourth loss in the league season. Their ranking continued to fall but at this current moment, did anyone still care about that?
Dunn jumped onto the ambulance and left with Twain. Kerslake took over all post-match matters by himself, and the press conference was also cancelled at the last minute. Concerned, Alan Shearer asked Kerslake what happened to Tony Twain.
After the match, the atmosphere in the changing room was lifeless. The players of Nottingham Forest were devastated not because they did not win, but because they were worried that something terrible had happened to Tony Twain.
Gareth Bale, who was sitting in the last row of the car, had his hands in his head and he started weeping softly. Although it had already been more than half an hour, but just thinking about Twain falling onto the ground suddenly and seizing scared Bale. It was as if his leader was dead.
His crying broke the silence within the cabin. Kerslake stood up and clapped. “Let’s go back… Don’t think much into this; this isn’t a problem for you guys to worry about. Let’s… continue training tomorrow.” His tone revealed his helplessness and fear.
Please, do not let anything happen to Tony!
When Twain woke from darkness and chaos, what he saw was, unsurprisingly, the whie ceiling. He heard some whirrs. Turning towards the source of the sound, he was shocked to see a familiar back view.
With her back turned, she lowered her head to blow on a steaming cup in an attempt to cool it down. She then took a spoon and dipped it in before bringing it to her mouth to test the temperature, only to be scalded and almost threw the stainless steel spoon.
“Ha,” Twain chuckled. His weak laughter shocked her, and this time she was so surprised she almost dropped the cup in her hand.
“Uncle Tony, you’re awake!” The person turned. There was a kind of indescribable joy in her voice. Who would it be if not Shania?
“What a conventional line.” Twain was a little weak, breathless after just a sentence.
However, Shania could not stop crying, tears ceaselessly flowing from her eyes and leaving two silver trails on her pretty cheeks.
“Why are… you crying?”
Shania was still crying and did not answer.
At his words, Shania then wiped her tears and grabbed Twain’s hands, her voice filled with sorrow. “You were unconscious for exactly 24 hours. At some point, the doctors had wanted to give up. Dunn called me and I rushed here as quickly as I could, I was afraid —” Tears flowed down again. Shania could not bring herself to continue her sentence.
“I… I’m good…” Twain had to repeat what he said just now.
Shania continued to speak through her crying, “We were supposed to be in Tokyo for promotional activies, but I’m not going. It doesn’t matter if I’m not famous. I prayed to God, hoping you would wake up”
Twain heard her complain about how she pulled through in these 24 hours and felt a little guilty. He discovered that Shania’s phoenix eyes were bigger than usual and they were red, obviously swollen from crying. Within this 24 hours, how much had she cried? Twain would never know.
A warm glow filled his heart. He lifted his hand with much effort, trying to wipe the tears on Shania’s face. Instead, he discovered the needles inserted into his arms which restricted his movement. Thus, he could only lift the edges of his mouth to smile at her. “Don’t worry, I’m evil. God wouldn’t want me.”
Shania did not reply. She only lowered her head to weep continuously, as if she wanted to pour all her turmoil and fears in fromt of Twain. This was not right, how could he let this bubbly and cute little fairy be so devastated? Twain decided to change the subject. He shifted his view toward that cup that still seemed to be steaming hot. “Is it water inside the cup, Shania?”
Shania shook her head, “No, it’s not water. It’s the paste you fed me when I had a fever last time… Are you thirsty, Uncle Tony? Let me pour you some water.” After saying that, she made to get up.
Twain shifted his hand to stop her. “I’m hungry, Shania. Can you feed me?”
Flustered, Shania turned to grab the cup, almost knocking it over. Twain lied on the bed, taking all of this in. He was hungry. Being unconscious for 24 hours, that was a full day…
Shania carefully carried the cup. She scooped up a spoonful of black paste which smelled like sesame and blew on it before feeding it to Twain. This was the Chinese black sesame paste Twain had fed her where she had been running a fever. It was surprising she remembered.
After finishing half the cup, Twain signalled that he could not eat any more. He regained some of his energy after eating and continued to lie on the bed, quietly watching Shania who was red with agitation.
“Uncle Tony is evil, and all evil people live a long life, so I won’t die. Stop crying — look, your eye bags are gonna show. How will you promote your movie with your eyebags showing?” He made fun of her. Drawing a long face at this time was just not good at all.
“I put aside my work. I’ll be by your side this whole time!” Shania sternly said. “Don’t even think about ditching me and leaving!”
Twain did not say anything, but only continued to watch Shania. Seeing how she was pretty even when she cried made Twain recall the ridiculously devastating dream he had before. If he were still in the working class sitting around waiting for death, would he have a chance to have a life-and-death farewell with a world-class supermodel? If he were still a nobody in the working class, would Shania still say “I love you” to him? Even if this were a dream, he would rather live in this dreamland. The Twain from that other world, just let him die. Who cares!
His eyes were fixed on Shania and it made her feel a little embarrassed. Both of them had already known each other for five years, but this was the first time Uncle Tony looked at her so directly and overtly. Plus, the main reason she was shy was that there was something in his eyes that had not been there before.
“Shania, did you know? I just had a very interesting dream.”
“What? What dream?”
“I dreamt that I was going to die. Then I thought of going to heaven, but God chased me out, He said I was born evil, so I should die like a demon and shouldn’t go to a place like heaven,” Twain slowly explained, like a scholar. “At this moment, Satan appeared, he used his bewitching voice to tempt me to hang out with him…”
Shania widened her eyes and stared at Twain, she did not know whether Uncle Tony was speaking the truth at that moment. Plus, before this, Uncle Tony had never spouted nonsense in front of her.
“Then, I thought about it. He was right, I was indeed made to be evil. So I followed him. But I didn’t think that b*stard Satan would raise his arm to block me. He pointed at the black door in front and said,” Twain tried to mimic Satan’s voice by making his voice more hoarse. “Whether you’re going to heaven or hell, it means you’re willing to give up everything you have in the living realm. If you want to follow me, you’ll have to forget all your feelings you had when you were alive before you can walk through this door.”
After saying all that, Twain paused to take a breath and he sneaked a look at Shania. Even when Shania was bawling her eyes out, she was still pretty. There was a sort of beauty in her sorrow, like Lin Daiyu.
“Actually, I’m not afraid of dying. I don’t think dying is a big deal. If I have no ties to the world, I think dying isn’t that big a deal. Living is not that different from being dead. Honor, money, reputation… I can’t bring these to the grave, so what is there to miss? I was going to walk through that door, but then I suddenly remembered something that made me hesitate. Shania, do you know what that was?”
Shania frowned and shook her head. “I don’t know…”
Twain looked at her confused face, which was undeniably adorable. He chuckled. “I forgot I still owed somebody an answer.”
“Oh…” Shania raised her eyes and was shocked to see Twain beaming.
“I, Tony Twain, have never owed anyone anything. I didn’t want this person to stalk me until the depths of hell for this answer, I’m unable to bear that responsibility… So, I apologized to Satan and said, ‘Mr Satan, I’m terribly sorry but I can’t follow you and become a demon. Why? Because I discovered that living is beautiful, and I still have a lot of things I can’t let go of! I can’t follow you.’ Satan became depressed and reprimanded me being too greedy, saying that the good things can’t be kept, so the earlier I forgot about it, the better it’d be for me. I shook my head to object. I’m greedy. I like those good things, I want to keep them forever by my side, and I just can’t let go of a person…”
After saying so much, Twain paused to take another breather.
Shania did not respond either. She sat on a chair and quietly waited for Twain to continue.
“Is it too late now to say sorry?”
Shania pouted, her eyes glossy with tears, and frantically shook her head.
Twain stretched out his hand and gently held Shania’s soft hands. “I’m really sorry, I’m too stubborn. I almost brought my stubbornness and regrets to the grave. If something this serious had not happened, my stubbornness might really be incurable for the rest of my life. Luckily, I almost died, which made me understand a lot of things…” Twain’s voice felt weak, he recalled that he used too much effort after speaking so much.
“Can you continue to call me ‘Uncle Tony’?” he asked.
Shania nodded shyly. Twain gestured for her to lie by him. Then, he painstakingly shifted his head to whisper by Shania’s ear. “Shania, I love you too.”
Upon hearing this, Shania’s eyes widened. She was shocked and happy at the same time, and did not know what to say at that instant. That line seemed to zap all of Twain’s energy. After that confession, he lay back down on the bed to look at the ceiling and grumbled. “I’m tired, I want to sleep.”
Shania tensed up. Making such a confession at this time was not a good sign. She gripped Twain’s hand tightly and reached for the emergency button at the front of the bed. To her surprise, Twain raised his hand to stop her.
“Don’t worry, I’m just going to sleep.” He smiled to calm Shania who seemed panicky and lost. “I still have a lot of days to live, and a lot more things I can’t let go of. I just discovered that I fell in love with a person, how would I be willing to find Satan? Don’t worry, I guarantee… this time I won’t sleep for long…”
He slowly closed his eyes, and then his breath evened out. This time, he was really sound asleep. Maybe he was dreaming of something again, but it was probably a beautiful dream this time.