‘Haunted Hospital’ unmasks different cultural personalities

Rensi Ke

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“You need one more doctor?”

“Yes! Would you like to…”

“I was supposed to be a surgery patient, but . . . sure!!!”

It took me no more than  five seconds to get promoted from a surgery patient to a doctor at Haunted Hospital.  Whoot! I  quickly grabbed a gray gown, a pair of skeleton hand gloves and a tube of sticky blood, and then  trotted down to the basement.

My new Halloween bonanza was even  more haunted than I expected.  Four sooty couches were scattered around together with an uncovered coffin, a pallid surgery bed and a bunch of blood-stained knives,  the shadows of which  were all scrabbling in  a beam of  flickering green light as if they were trying to dance to the ghastly screams hovering over the basement.

One of the four wandering zombies approached with excitement, put on my make-up and told me that I was supposed to stand near the surgery bed to be the first person that would be seen by the tourists.

Thirty seconds later, I  went to the surgery bed  where  a patient had already stretched  himself out,  his caramel-rimmed eyes staring at the ceiling, his  neck oozing the crimson blood and his limbs  bending in a stiff position.

Before I asked my first-year patient for his name,  a rending roar sounded from the neighboring zombie massacre scene, signaling the arrival of our first group of tourists. The patient lay down again and the other  zombies  swiftly crouched down in the darkness.  I grasped my knives tighter and looked at the doorway.

Suddenly, the Chinese ancient ghosts I  read in Pu Songling’s  “Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio” came to my mind. I quickly bowed my head so that my hair hung over my face; I  laid my eyes on the doorway again, but with  the  death glare  I learned from Hanamichi Sakuragi, my favorite character in the Japanese basketball manga  “Slam Dunk.” One of his stunts is to “kill the opponents with  a strained stare.”

Tentatively, the first group of tourists stepped into the basement.  With my hair covering my eyes, I couldn’t see them well. But hearing them gasp and  exclaim at the sight of me, I  was  certain  that  I had successfully sent a chill up  their spines.

I was enjoying my silent haunting game when suddenly my lying patient sprang from the surgery bed with a thundering growl and  made at the  unprepared tourists.  Immediately, zombies  jumped out of all corners of the basement: the coffin, the back of the sofa,  the corner of the  porch and even places  I didn’t notice before. They chased the  screaming tourists until they rushed out of the basement through the exit.

I was haunted, too. The temporary arrangement didn’t  give  me any chance  for rehearsal, which might speak for my shock at the aggressiveness of  my new  team members. Nonetheless I’m quite sure that even if we had rehearsed before I would  still be  surprised by the different cultural personalities demonstrated through this Sino-American Halloween cooperation.

Later, I tried to imitate my American peers by uttering disturbing screams and brandishing knives in front of the tourists, but I never had the courage to jump across the sofa like the zombie first-year Spencer Wharton, who acted  very well: as if he were under a spell.

My  female scream also made me sound like a doctor who was haunted by people rather than one that was haunting people. And insanely waving the knives made me feel like a nut.

At last I found out the most comfortable  way of haunting people for me was either strolling in front of the tourists  and pricking the eye holes of the skeleton head with a dagger, or, simply  leaning against the wall near the entrance and scaring people with my silent stare.

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