Dark Days, Sleepless Nights

I’ve never kept a diary. I’m not the sort of person who dwells on what’s happened or ponders the meaning of life. Well, that’s changed in the last two years. I need a place to record some of my darker thoughts tempered by humor – it’s the only way to deal with them. Since my last “entry” was mostly composed of wistful recollections of my time on Solomon’s Island well over a year ago, I suppose I should start with a proper introduction. (The Dragon people advise against this in case anyone should find my personal effects. They can take their “advice” and shove it up their ass.)

My name is Liling Ming. Most people call me Lily. I was born in Kaifeng, China. My parents brought me to California in the United States at the age of three months. I speak Chinese well enough to understand my parents and that’s about it. I don’t speak it with anyone else. I was taught to observe filial piety, work hard, study well, and respect and honor my elders and ancestors. My parents had a hard time rectifying this with the American ideals of independence and not caring about what others think of you, so they just ignored them. This worked out well enough when I was a child and not so well when I got into my teens.

It wasn’t that I was rebellious or strong-willed or a loner or anything like that. I get along with others and make friends well enough. I just don’t go up to people in the hallway and chat them up. I had my share of boyfriends throughout high school which is what spooked my parents. “He isn’t serious. He isn’t good enough for you. Is he studying to be a doctor? Does he get good grades?” None of them were really husband material, which is pretty much what I was looking for from the start. My last boyfriend before I graduated went off to join the Navy and we wrote letters to each other (he appreciated my old-fashioned sentiments). Then I got a call one day telling me that he had “met” (read: impregnated) someone overseas while on shore leave and was getting married. I was crushed. Two years later I still haven’t recovered. I apologized to my parents for not listening to them. I don’t think they’ve forgiven me.

It’s a bit weird for me. My friends think I’m too serious and my parents don’t think I’m serious enough. Get a job. Get married. Have kids. Crunch numbers. Make money. Take care of mom and dad. The cycle of life. I understand this. I guess I just assumed that anyone who was interested in going out with me was as serious as I was about being together long-term. I guess that also makes me naïve. Well, it did until I started up with this secret society business.

It all came about when my parents decided to send me off to China to attend university. They didn’t even tell me which one, that’s how upset they were with me. I was being routinely chastised for my lack of language ability: “Why can’t you speak properly to your parents? We gave birth to you, feed you, clothe you, take care of you and you don’t even speak to us in your mother tongue!” So off I went to Beijing with suitcases and language books. After sleeping off the jet lag, I met up with the local international students’ club the following evening and was introduced to a young, good-looking Korean boy who had just finished up his program. Against my better judgement – and perhaps because I was still shaken from my now-nonexistent relationship – we went out drinking and I let him have sex with me. When we were sober again, he asked me to come back to Korea with him. I was smitten. Classes started the following week, and I was going to miss all of them. We flew to Seoul.

My parents don’t know. If they ever find out, they will fly to Korea or China or wherever it is I am and kill me. I am not even kidding. The police will show up and say, “What happened here?” “Disobeyed her parents.” “Tsk tsk tsk,” and they’ll shake their heads knowingly.

Fortunately, I was snatched away from the jaws of hypothetical death by one of the local crazies who showed up and kidnapped me one evening while my new boyfriend was off at night classes. To be fair, I had glowy hands and was playing with what looked like fireflies in the moonlit space of the cramped “Love Hotel”-style room we were sharing. I was probably asking for it. Little birds had been flitting down onto my shoulder and telling me all about my boyfriend and how he was probably off spending ridiculous amounts of Won on ssambap and sushi with local beauties in tow. Seems my boyfriend had a reputation around town. That explains his interest in an “exotic” Chinese-American dressed in her best version of office casual. That’s also why I decided I wouldn’t miss him and let the garishly tattooed monk who appeared at my door knock me out cold.

When I woke, I was downtown in a place I didn’t recognize. Went to a hotel. Heard random sex sounds. Met my contact person, head of the local Society for Saving the World. She was attractive in a modest sort of way. There was a tingling in my skin when she got close to me. I didn’t feel anything when she was down there doing whatever it is she was doing, but I liked her well enough to not complain. Then I remembered that she was probably batshit crazy and wondered what a relationship with her would be like. Probably not worth the trouble.

Unless you were on the run from potentially homicidal parents.

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It’s either this or spend my time watching muk-bang streams. Karaoke it is.

So I signed off on her visions of global conspiracies and L. Ron Hubbard-esque space opera and agreed to do whatever it is they were going to have me do so long as it involved being far, far away from any place my parents would ever look for me. I began by spending a year in Maine chasing down creatures with strange Norse names and ridding the mountains of ancient curses. It’s a nice enough place if a bit provincial and rainy. I then moved on to Egypt after chasing some turncoat agent I didn’t much care for to the wintry ends of the earth. I was also apparently promoted several times by my superiors at Dragon HQ who called me up and congratulated me in Korean, a language I don’t speak. I don’t feel any cooler. If it gets me brownie points with some of the Dragon guys who aren’t entirely brainwashed, that might be a start.

I’m also being regularly contacted on my cell phone by the other societies including someone named Kirsten whose level of cray-cray must be off the charts. I like the way she talks, though; she’s genuinely funny if one overlooks the fact that she’ll reportedly whack your ass the second you’re no longer useful. It seems the only real difference between the Atenist cultists around al-Merayah and the secret societies is that the societies are more sophisticated, self-aware, and possess next-gen military grade equipment. It’s pretty scary when you think about it. They claim to be the ones keeping the world from plunging into eternal darkness. Whatever. I think that’s a pretty melodramatic bit of CYA for the never-ending old married couple’s quarrel between the Templars and the Illuminati. These Dragon people are their neglected child, growing spiteful and conspiring in the shadowy corners of their room while mom and dad fight over who’s in charge of spending this year’s tax return. It’s telling that they put a baby in charge. Seriously, a baby. He gurgles and your “audience” with him ends. Bong Cha must be hitting the bong, all right.

So I’m off doing errands for them in Egypt now, or for whomever they think will spread ripples in the waves of the fabric of the tapestry of the eternal global kingdom. My first contact was Shani, a lean, sharp woman with wiry muscles and an air of authority who leads al-Merayah’s military response to the swarms of cultists roaming the outskirts and beyond. (In different times, I wouldn’t mind getting to know her better.) Blow this up, collect that. Met a charming professor/student couple at a pair of ancient dig sites. Learned about mythology by jumping all over their elaborate scaffolding.

My most recent mission sent me off into the Date Factory but I didn’t score a date. You see? I do have a sense of humor. You just have to read my diary to find it. Ahem. I was somehow entrapped in a cell and met the nicely bearded local head of the crazies. He had some sort of powdery mist that disabled my glowy hands, so I beat the crap out of the guy holding the cell key. For whatever reason, the guards who were previously wielding semi-automatic machineguns were now weaponless. I guess they didn’t think I was a threat any more. Seriously, people. I’m Chinese. I have four millennia of dynastic ass-whooping in my blood. I channeled the spirit of every Bruce Lee movie I had ever seen and punched out the entire warehouse. The last guy I fought must have been the “boss” of the level. He was seriously going to beat up a woman, so I side-kicked him into a conveniently positioned metal shaft protruding from one of the room’s pillars.

You know, maybe I should condense these entries to keep things simple. How about this?

Dear Diary,
Today I beat up 10 cultists and murdered 200 more of them.
Love, Liling
P. S. I have the hots for Shani.

There’s also Tanis, the local grouchy smuggler and her classier counterpart, Saïd, a mummy who seems to have crawled out of the earth’s asshole. He’s a glorified artifact collector. I was sent off to the ominously named Time Tombs to recover the Ancile, an ancient Roman artifact. I went off and found the ancestors of the crazies in Sol Glorificus, City of the Sun’s Glory or some such. I donned a disguise which involved getting naked and putting on a single piece of cloth. The citizens were too busy chanting “Sol Invictus” to care about my presence whereas the primus ordo guards were quite cognizant of the fact that the 329 AD census in the heart of the Roman empire probably did not feature many Asians.

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I ended up hiding in a lot of shadows.

After having been exploded into bits and reassembled by the bees more times than I care to remember, I was able to apply my home-grown (dis)assembly skills to create a replica of the Ancile from parts of staffs and urns I found within the city. I can’t even make this stuff up. I felt like Indiana Jones. I ran back outside and hid it in a statue of Mars, then returned to the present day and recovered it. In a turn of events that surprised nobody, Saïd declared it a passable replica and tossed it over the railing of the third-floor balcony of the hotel that he and several dozen murderous desert animals were staying at. “This is all part of the model,” says the Dragon. Is my middle finger part of the model, too?

At least in Maine I felt like what I was doing made a difference. I even had time to take part in some of the activities suggested on the City of Kingsmouth website. Most of the things on there are still true, despite the fact that the city is now a quarantined filth infection zone and you have to be unkillable to enjoy them. Here in Egypt I feel like I’m getting blown to bits and reconstituted for somebody’s personal amusement. Suggested activities: collect explosives, explode cultists, infiltrate factories full of kryptonite, Chuck Norris. The more I do, the less I understand. Same with my parents. The more I’d try to explain to them that I’m an immortal agent for a secret society trying to prevent a global filth apocalypse, the less they’d understand. They’ll just tell me I’ve been watching too many Hong Kong action movies. Then they’ll murder me, the bees will bring me back to life, and they’ll tell me to find a job and a husband.

Game over.

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