The Dark Side of Charles Wu
Then he wakes up.
He has written it all down. After dreaming it four times, he shared it with Lynnette Wong, but she said it was clearly because they had watched "Turtle: The Incredible Journey" with Buffy Cordelia. But he knew it was more than that. He emailed it to his mother in Hong Kong, who said it meant that the Chinese New Year--Year of the Goat--was already wreaking havoc in his life. She told him to wear nothing but red clothing for a week, and only red underwear the rest of the year. The red clothing was not working--yet? He started telling his father about the dream.
"You never expected to be in Washington so long," said his father, visiting from England. "You are a Pacific creature, but now your business interests have brought you to the Atlantic. You are wondering how much of this was random chance, how much was destiny, how much was free will." Charles Wilkinson Montgomery continued building a Cinderella castle out of Lego blocks, with a little help from his adorable granddaughter.
"It's more than that," said Wu. "What if there really is a demon in the Chesapeake?" he whispered so that Delia would not hear him.
"What?!" exclaimed his father, who had been secretly summoned here by Wu's estranged friend/agent/bodyguard, Angela de la Paz, to deal with the growing darkness in his son's soul. (Nobody said anything about psychosis?!)
"What if it's true?" repeated Wu.
"There's no such thing as a d-e-m-o-n!" exclaimed Montgomery, who was choosing his words carefully because Delia was three now, and had an excellent vocabulary. "Now tell me what's really bothering you!"
Charles Wu had quietly bought up a third of the businesses in Chinatown to launder money for his espionage business. He was a prominent leader now in the business community there, even though many of the Taiwanese families were not entirely comfortable with his Chinese citizenship. (He was supposed to be downtown right now for the parade, but he had begged off, lying that his daughter had the sniffles.) He had started his own secret Political Action Committee last year. His power, wealth, and influence had never been higher, but he couldn't shake the feeling something was stalking him and his daughter.
"Something's wrong," he said quietly.
"What?!" pushed his father, who waited a few more moments, but Wu said nothing. "Look, I know about Delia's m-o-t-h-e-r," said Montgomery, smiling at Delia, who had looked up at the sound of her name. "Angela told me everything. You have to let it go." Wu jumped up, instantly understanding now that Angela was behind his father's sudden desire to take a winter vacation in Washington. "Sit down!" barked his father, startling Delia.
"It's okay," said Wu, sitting back down to take his frowning daughter into his lap. "We can't talk about this now," he said to his father, helping Delia put together a few pieces in her lap."
"Look, I know your mother is a bit superstitious and used to say she saw g-h-o-s-t-s, but--"
"I have, too," said Wu.
"You were very impressionable--you were just a child!" protested Montgomery.
"As an adult, too," replied Wu.
"She believed your brother was a m-o-n-s-t-e-r, switched at birth. You know this now. Clearly, her hysterical beliefs had an influence on you. But the British Secret Service is 90% responsible for the d-e-a-t-h of the child's m-o-t-h-e-r."
"And they need to pay for it," said Wu quietly.
"No, they don't!" argued his father. "That won't solve anything! That won't give her a m-o-t-h-e-r! All that will do is give her a homicidal f-a-t-h-e-r! You're losing your grip, Charles! Only love can conquer hate!"
Wu burst out laughing at this, which prompted a peal of laughter from little Delia, who kissed her father, then ran across the room to gather some little people to put in her fairy castle. "There's so much darkness in my life," whispered Wu, suddenly fighting back tears.
"Well, welcome to the human race! There's darkness in everybody's life! Did you think you were immune because you were so handsome and clever and funny and charismatic? You could find affection, admiration and respect everywhere you went. Well, I didn't! Your mother was the only woman that ever loved me, and she had a breakdown after the birth of your brother, and another after his death. Life and death, hatred and love! This is the ying and yang of the universe, Charles! You can't escape it! You have a million blessings in your life and choose to nurse a hatred over this one tragedy? It's absurd! It's childish! Of course there's evil out there, but it's not d-e-m-o-n-s! We're all bloody bastards but for the grace of God!"
Wu blinked back the tears. He had never heard his father speaking like this.
"Snap out of it, Charles!" Montgomery exclaimed, and he took his son by the shoulders and shook him. "Snap out of it!"
Delia skipped back to their corner of the room with two handfuls of little play people and farm animals to move into the Lego creation. "Here's your pretty castle!" she told the little creatures, sitting down on the rug to arrange them.
"You have love in your life, son," said Montgomery. "That's a lot more than many people have."
And for a few minutes, Wu forgot about all the spying and womanizing and drinking, the thrills and spills, the ups and downs, the calculated undernourishment of his conscience, the constant lies and betrayals. For a few minutes, he thought only of his father and daughter, and how absurd he was to wear red clothing when he owed them so much more. For a few minutes, this was enough, and it was good.
And so Charles Wu returned to his balanced perch, poised between good and evil. Like so many Washingtonians, he would do what was best for himself, without deliberately wishing harm on others and yet not exactly lifting a finger to stop those who do. His underdeveloped soul was at peace behind his massive wall of chi.
Out in the Chesapeake, the demon aborted another attempt to become Ardua of the Atlantic, and slithered back to the familiar waters of the Potomac. I need to grow bigger, she thought, noticing that the break-up of river ice had brought the ducks back. A lost sea turtle shuddered as Ardua went by, then continued his return to the Atlantic. A flock of starlings landed on the west bank to tell Ardua about the Arlington National Cemetery funeral for the sniper who had become famous on YouTube for urinating on slain Taliban corpses. Another flock of starlings landed on the east bank to tell the demon that Charles Wu had slipped out of the darkness and back to the line.
And the Washington media was too busy reporting on nutrition guidelines and Giuliani's definition of love for (the One Percent of) America to report on how the NSA hacked into a European sim card manufacturer, enabling it to spy on hundreds of thousands of cellphones without a court order--not even a "Get Out of Jail Free" card from FISA!
COMING UP: State (Department) of Confusion.