Return of the Dragon

October 27, 2008

This is the first part of a script for a comic I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. It’s about what it’s like to be a supernatural creature in contemporary China, using that to examine all the day-to-day compromises people make in a place where the sheer number of people and scale of problems leads to different kinds of choices than we usually encounter in America.

The name of the lead character will change, because it’s currently stupid.

SCENE 1: Bedroom.

[Thurs 3:28 AM, two days before my return to Beijing.]

*Phone rings*

“Hello?”
“Xiaolong! You’re… You’re all packed for your flight?”

“Mom? Is there’s something wrong?”
“It’s nothing. // I was just thinking… Life here can be a bit troublesome… // We all miss you very much! // But perhaps you’d rather stay in America where things are more casual and you have good prospects!”

“Mom, I’ve already bought my ticket. The cancellation charge is $500. Plus, it’s decided. I told all my friends that I’m going home and they’re having a party for me tomorrow night. After this week, I won’t even have an apartment.”

“Oh… okay. Well, I saw Mr. Xu the other day and his daughter just graduated from Fudan University-
“Mom, it’s the middle of the night here. Can we talk again tomorrow?”

“… Sure, Xiaolong. Sleep well. *click*”

(Laying awake).

SCENE 2: The Party.

“Dude, you’re going back after all this time. That’s so cool. Like ‘Return of the Dragon’ for real.”
“Return of the dragon?”
“You know, the Bruce Lee movie where he fights Chuck Norris in the Coliseum.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen that one.”
“No WAY!”

[After we party, he made me sit down and watch it, though I was tired and a little drunk. // The Chinese title was “Fierce Dragon Crosses the River,” probably a reference to Caesar and the Rubicon.]

[Crossing the Pacific was intimidating. Sixteen hours on a plane would present me with a whole new life. // But what had mom so anxious?]

[Forget it, the die is cast.]

SCENE 3: Dream.

Godzilla is destroying Beijing. Yu’s running away but bumps into an old man.
“Only you can save us from this monster!”
“Me? I can’t stop Godzilla!”
“Coward! Why won’t you save China? // You’ve been living in America so long you’ve forgotten who you are!”
“It’s not that. It’s just… he’s huge! And he’s got atomic breath!”
*Godzilla breathes on them and they both are incinerated*

Yu wakes up in his bed, all twisted in the sheets. The alarm is going off for his flight.

SCENE 4: The Plane.

[Sixteen hour flight, but I couldn’t fall asleep.]

“Please fill out these immigration forms prior to landing.”

A few panels of filling out the form.

Zoom in on part of the form that reads: ‘DECLARATION OF SUPERNATURAL NATURE // I am: 1) enlightened, 2) a god, spirit, or deified culture hero, 3) a living creature of myth, 4) a ghost or other non-living creature, 5) other (explain below).’

A few panels of him trying to think about what to mark.

[Hadn’t considered this. Probably easiest to not fill anything out and, if I encountered any problems, to just say I missed that section.]

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our descent into Beijing International Airport-”

SCENE 5: Customs.

There are separate lines for ‘Chinese Citizens’ and ‘Foreign Friends.’

Waits in ‘citizens’ line.

Hands forms and passport to female desk clerk.

She runs them through the computer system.

“You are Yu Xiaolong?”
“Yes?”

“You should mark this box, ‘living creature of myth,’ on all forms that require your ‘supernatural nature.’ Otherwise you could encounter big problems, understand?”
“I understand.”

“Your entry can’t be processed here. *Stamp* *Ding’s bell three times* You need to go through the Special Office. (Two People’s Armed Police officers come over) They will take you there. (Hands forms to PAP).”

“… Thank you.”
“No need.”

The PAP lead him to the Special Customs Security Office, down a long corridor away from the other parts of customs and immigration. There are paramilitary personnel standing outside and inside the door, the ones outside maybe even carrying assault rifles on a strap.

“Please wait here.”

SCENE 6: Waiting Room.

It’s otherwise empty, but there’s a young women, about his age, sitting several chairs down from him.

Shot of him waiting, with clock.

More waiting; clock shows 20 minutes have passed.

He gets up and walks down to talk to the girl; clock shows 20 more minutes have passed.

“So, you’re also here to be processed? You must be some manner of goddess or culture hero, because you’re way too young to be enlightened.”

Silence.

He sits down next to her.
“I apologize. If you don’t like talking about it… Were you on the flight from New York too? I was living in Boston before I deci-”

Shot of her face, which is a horrible demon visage full of teeth and eyes.
Yu: “AAAAAA!”

Special Customs Officer: “Yu Xiaolong, please come in. // Ms. Liu, I phoned your living descendants and they will be here soon to fill out some paperwork. They claim to be unaware of your return.”

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