Daniel Eng Zisuey works at a combined resort and religious shrine. An American, he majored in drama and has a great job. He portrays himself on stage as one of his own ancestors reborn, because his benefactor, Eng Sen, used ancient DNA to clone him. When some worshippers have a tragedy, Daniel wants out. Then he learns Eng Sen does not consider quitting to be in the job description.~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~Eng Sen staggered to his feet on stage left, sweating heavily; now his silk suit was rumpled and his tie askew. He snatched the cordless mike clipped to the robe of a priest. He wheezed as he spoke into the mike.“I am Eng Sen, owner of this island,” he said harshly in Cantonese. “This temple is here for all of you, for all of us, for the whole Eng clan!”“It’s here to steal your money!” Daniel shouted, now holding his mike.Eng Sen waved the acolytes up toward Daniel. “If this man has betrayed your trust, he has betrayed me as well! I have been fooled, too!”The crowd shouted angrily in many voices, confused.Daniel saw the acolytes hoisting up onto the dais. He summoned dignity and authority into his voice.“I am Eng Zisuey,” he intoned in Cantonese. “I am the Zhou Xian of this clan. I’m a man, not a ghost!”Several acolytes got their footing on the dais. Daniel dropped the mike and fled stage right; behind him, the crowd roared again. He skipped down a staircase, then flung off the flapping white undertunic.Daniel ran down the hall in his shoes and underwear. Leitch would not be at his dressing room door so early in the ritual. Ahead of the acolytes, he palmed open his dressing room door, slipped inside, and palmed it shut.He knew Personal Security had key access to his dressing room and house. Grabbing a shirt and pants, he palmed open the tunnel to get his passport from his desk. Then he realized some guards could be headed there already. With the clothes under his arm, he yanked open the door to the balcony and stepped out into the cool, humid evening air. He closed the door softly and vaulted over the wooden rail of the balcony to the cushion of pine-needled ground. In deep shadows, he paused to dress.Daniel heard voices shouting inside his dressing room. Warily, he moved down the rough, uneven mountainside in the darkness. Leitch had never hidden his contempt for Daniel, and might relish the chance to have his men brutally punish the privileged Original Ancestor who had now endangered the salaries of them all.Daniel had to get off the island.***At midnight, Daniel neared the docks, gasping for breath and slimy with sweat. Peering around a corner, he saw Personal Security officers where they usually did not patrol. Eng Sen had not sent a general alert to island security; Grandfather wanted Daniel brought back quietly.“Dan,” a woman whispered behind him.He whirled, ready to run despite his exhaustion.“I thought you might come to the docks,” Meilin whispered in English. “I’ve watched for you. I live nearby. You may sleep on my couch.”Daniel studied her. Then he glanced at the Personal Security guards around the corner. If she wanted to turn him in, she could call them.“All right. I can’t leave anyhow. No wallet or passport.”Meilin pulled him out into the street by his arm and raised her voice. “You lousy drunk! You’ve shamed our entire family. Come on!”Playing along, Daniel weaved and staggered against her, keeping his face averted from the Personal Security guards. No one stopped them.
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by William F. Wu
Copyright @ 1999 – William F. Wu
In the glare of the spotlight, Daniel Zisuey Eng stood on the high dais in the Temple of Eng Zisuey, wearing his traditional black Chinese robe of embroidered silk and a white undertunic. Now at the end of the ritual, he watched the crowd standing far below him. The sweet smoke of incense wafted past, mixed with acrid smoke left by firecrackers set off earlier.
“Farewell,” Daniel’s voice boomed in English over the speakers.
From the traditional Chinese orchestra, the fast banging of a light-weight gong built to a crescendo. Those below gazed up at Daniel in awe, curiosity, or skepticism, the majority of them also surnamed Eng. A few shouted insults; others called entreaties, even prayers. He calmly remained behind the altar of carved teak that was now covered with sacrifices of cash, pledges, jewelry, even children’s toys.
“Yi lu ping an,” Daniel intoned in Mandarin, wishing the crowd a peaceful journey. “Yet lu ping on,” he repeated in Cantonese.
As always, Daniel waited for a line of acolytes to form below the dais so no one could jump the rail and climb up to him. At the gong’s final crash, the spotlight went out, signaling the end of the ritual. In the sudden darkness, he whirled and strode off the dais, stage right.
Twenty-eight years old, Daniel had been worshipped as a spirit reborn for nearly all of his adult life.
“‘Nother day, ‘nother dollar, Danny-boy.” At Daniel’s dressing-room door, Eric Leitch, the tall, brawny Chief of Personal Security, smirked at Daniel as he spoke in his Aussie-accented English, his sun-bleached flat-top standing stiff over his broad, square-jawed face. “The acolytes are escortin’ the crowd out in order; A-Okay, green lights all ‘round.”
“Good,” Daniel muttered in annoyance, palming the doorplate to slip inside and close it again. He had no liking for his blue-uniformed Personal Security bodyguards. Even the acolytes were guards who wore traditional robes over their uniforms during the rituals. Chief Leitch spent most of his shift watching the temple grounds on monitors in his office. His unit worked for Mr. Eng Sen, as Daniel did -- his nominal grandfather, a tycoon whose business empire owned Eng Zhouxian Do, this island near Hong Kong.
The light came on in Daniel’s lavish dressing room at the rear of the temple—“backstage,” in the jargon of his UCLA major in Theater Arts. A glass door led to a balcony overlooking the rocky, wooded slope down the mountain. Far below, the brightly colored lights of the island’s shops, restaurants, hotels, and amusement park sparkled near the docks; they remained open past midnight.
A man’s voice, dry with age, came on the room’s speakers in Cantonese. “Ah Suey, are you there? Keep your stage makeup on.”
“I’m here,” Daniel answered in the same language, recognizing Eng Sen’s voice. “Screen on.” He flopped down in a tan leather-covered recliner, tired as always from the evening’s effort.
The far wall brightened with the video image of the man he called “Grandfather”. Seventy-two years old, Eng Sen wore his white hair short and had age spots removed by laser treatment. His bland, roundish face smiled with cold courtesy from a high, black leather chair; sunlight backlit him like a halo. “I’m calling from my London office, Ah Suey. Remain in costume; I’ve instructed a new assistant of mine to bring visitors to you even as we speak.”
“A major sacrifice, Grandfather?” Daniel fought to keep disgust out of his voice as he pushed up from the recliner.
“My assistant, Meilin Lei, will handle the financial matters.”
“I know what to do, Grandfather,” Daniel said obediently.
“I know you do. By the way, I’ll be coming by the island in two days for routine meetings. See you then.” Eng Sen disconnected.
Leitch came on the screen. “A Meilin Lei and guests to see ya.”
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