One of the consequences of growing up is coming to terms with the fact that you’re no longer a child. I’ve met all of Ptahmose’s offspring in the City of the Sun God: ancient souls with names like Hemitneter, Nefertari, and Houy. They bore corporeal forms several millenia ago, just as we do now. In the present day, their essence is confined to the statues and statuettes found throughout the wretched landscapes and small, pyramid-shaped retreats that dot the heights of this open-air “city.”
Ptahmose has maintained his relationship with his children throughout all these years. He comes to them bearing stories of far-away lands and postcards from places like New York and Rejykjavik. Once, he even hauled a film projector in a heavy suitcase over the hostile sands to show them movies.
I thought about this as I sat down in the room you see above and cried softly for half an hour or so. A rarity for me, to be certain. My temper usually goes in the opposite direction; it’s very difficult to arouse any sort of passion in me. Friends have occasionally (and playfully, according to them) commented that I have a heart of ice. Well, it melted out here in the hot sands.
I’ve reached the maximum rank among agents of the Dragon, I’ve been told. The “Dissolution” – whatever the hell that means. I don’t really care. They called me up to congratulate me in Korean, as they always do, and at the end of it, Bong Cha suddenly came on the line and told me something that turned my wry bemusement into frosty dejection: she had called my parents in San Francisco and told them I was dead.
What the fuck?!
That’s what I screamed into the phone in response. There was silence on the other end – not because Bong Cha wasn’t expecting this sort of response, but presumably because she was still somewhat taken aback at this uncharacteristic display of emotion despite being fully prepared for it.
“Liling, let me explain. We called your parents and told them that you had been abducted by human traffickers shortly after your arrival. We identified your Korean boyfriend as a low-level figurehead who was instrumental in your disappearance; he raped you while under the influence of psychotics, then murdered you and disposed of the body for unknown reasons. Regional law enforcement were present on the call and confirmed this sequence of events. To protect your identity, your remains were moved to an unmarked grave at an undisclosed location. We know you will not understand this or agree with it, but it had to be done for reasons we cannot reveal.”
“We know you’ll need some time to process this – ”
I hung up the phone and stewed. Then I sulked. And then I wept.
Hidden among the reams of ethereal, cryptic, philosophical bullshit that comprises the Dragon’s typical response to everything and anything, an occasional gem bubbles to the surfaces that connects with me on a spiritual level in some mysterious way I can’t adequately describe. It was after having dispatched several of the cult leaders in the Reformatory whose unbridled arrogance had driven them to adopt for themselves the names of ancient Egyptian mythological figures (“Neith, the Weaver” or “Khepri, the Shining”) that one of the Dragon’s recent mission responses struck me almost like a blow to the forehead:
None appreciate that this world will end just as the old world did, as all worlds do. It is the cycle.
My world has come to an end. I am as good as dead to my parents. I have grown up, passed on, and now inhabit the afterlife. I would never be able to return to them without inflicting massive amounts of additional emotional and psychological trauma. The Dragon has already given them their fill. I despise the entirety of their fucked up society, but they know I don’t have the type of temperament that Hemitneter does despite having cultivated a similar warrior spirit – I would never seek retribution.
I roam this world now as a ghost in service of those who proclaimed my death. Oddly, I am at peace with this.