On the surface of the Eastern Sea, not far from the Dragon King’s palace, Monkey landed lightly on a barren rock that jutted above the waves. Stretching himself out on it, he yawned and then studied the sky.
“Now that I’m an Immortal, I think I’ll fly up to Heaven and become a god as well. But that’s all after a good nap.”
He closed his eyes and quickly drifted into sleep.
All at once Monkey felt himself jerked to his feet. Two men were clutching his elbows. One man had the face of a horse, the other had the head of an ox.
Horse Face held an official document, which he studied closely. “Is your name Monkey?”
“That’s right,” said Monkey, in a daze.
“All right,” said Ox Head, “get moving!”
They started to drag him off. Stumbling once, Monkey happened to glance back. There he saw himself, still lying on the ground!
They rounded the rock and started across a desolate plain. The sea was nowhere in sight. “Where is this?” he asked. “And how did I get here?”
“He wants to know how he got here!” snorted Horse Face.
“You got here the same way as everyone!” said Ox Head.
After a while they came to the wall of a city. Above the gate was an iron placard with characters inlaid in gold.
DEMON GATE OF THE LAND OF DARKNESS
“Land of Darkness?” exclaimed Monkey, at last coming fully awake. “But that’s the realm of Yama, Lord of the Dead! I don’t belong here!”
“That’s what they all say!” said Horse Face.
“But I’m an Immortal!” protested Monkey. “I’ve gone beyond death!”
“Tell it to the judge!” said Ox Head.
“All right, I will!” said Monkey, snatching his staff from its hiding place in his ear. “Grow!” he cried, and in half a moment he was swinging five feet of it.
“We didn’t mean it!” cried Horse Face, fleeing through the gate.
“Can’t you take a joke?” said Ox Head, racing after.
Monkey followed them in, still swinging his staff. The demons of the city were terrified, and not one of them dared get in his way. By the time Monkey reached the Palace of Darkness, Lord Yama and the other nine Judges of the Dead were waiting on the steps.
“Sir, what seems to be the trouble?” asked Yama nervously.
“The trouble?” said Monkey. “The trouble is you’ve brought me here!”
“But sir, I assure you,” said Yama, “you will be judged fairly and punished—I mean, re-educated—strictly according to your past deeds. Then when the evil you’ve done has been avenged—I mean, corrected—you’ll be returned to the Land of Light for a brand new life.”
“I don’t want to be reborn!” said Monkey. “I don’t want to die in the first place! Don’t you realize I’m an Immortal?”
“An Immortal!” said Yama in consternation. “There must be some mistake!”
“Exactly!” said Monkey. “I demand to see the Register of Life and Death.”
Yama led him into the Hall of Darkness, where a clerk dragged out several musty volumes. Monkey searched till he found his name.
“Writing brush!” commanded Monkey, and the clerk gave him one dipped in ink. Monkey blotted his name from the register. “That should do it,” he said.
“This is most irregular!” protested Yama.
“Tell it to the judge!” said Monkey. He slammed the book shut and rushed out. Then he made his way back to the city wall, swinging his staff as he went.
Just outside the gate, Monkey tripped and fell rolling. When he opened his eyes, he was back on the rock in the Eastern Sea.
“Wonderful!” cried Monkey as he jumped to his feet. “Next stop: Heaven.”
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