The cookie tasted sweet in his mouth, it reminded him why he comes to this restaurant every month. It wasn’t necessarily the food that kept him coming back, more the memories of times past. This was his 168th time and counting, the 14 year anniversary of his very first time away from home. The first time he met his two best friends and his first day of college. It might have even been the first time he’d ever had a fortune cookie, which is odd considering he’d lived in Chinatown all his life. Chinatown, New Mexico, is probably the least culturally significant of all the “Chinatowns” in the United States. Few knew about it until today, but we’ll talk about that later.
Tong Swanson had only just taken his first bite of rice, chicken, and soy sauce, when he noticed his best friends, Rick and Cara, walk in the door. He waved them over to his table with a mouthful of food and managed to swallow before they made it there. Cara is Tong’s ex-girlfriend; luckily they had broken up on peaceful terms, and so they remained the best of friends. She was also a colleague at what was Tong’s part-time job, so in the end Tong decided it was for the best. She was 30, and had recently completed her final year of medical school, so she was frequently applying for a job. She hadn’t received a call back yet.
Rick, on the other hand, met Tong in first grade. He always used to tease Tong for being so scrawny, but now they were the best of friends. Rick had grown up to be a professional basketball player for the New Mexico Thunderbirds, and Tong had grown up to be a teacher of Nuclear Physics at the University of New Mexico. Tong had often noticed Rick glancing over at Cara whenever they went to the bar, which gave Tong the opportunity to finally get back at him for all of Rick’s teasing. Tong would pester Rick all the time about when he was going to ask her out, but every time Rick’s response was the same, “We’re just friends, ok?” Both he and Tong knew what Rick really thought, but Rick was waiting for the right moment.
Tong had recently gotten a job offer himself from the nearby nuclear facility at Los Alamos; all of the reactors had already been shut down there, so they were hoping his connections at the university would grant them to further their research at the university’s nuclear reactor. Tong had always been fond of the innovations made at Los Alamos during the Cold War. His fascination with the Manhattan Project brought him here, and so when the opportunity presented itself he couldn’t help but accept the offer. Not only was he provided a huge boost in salary having come from a teaching position, but he was given the chance to work at the place where the efforts of physicists the world round had come together.
Tong finally managed to finish shoveling food into his mouth when his friends sat down, laughing as they did. Tong swallowed heavily, almost choking as he said, “Where have you been?” Rick and Cara were laughing on the way in, but to this Rick answered with a gruff, “Traffic is hell.” The comment glanced off of Tong, who had been waiting to talk about his new job offer in the hopes that he could cheer up a disheartened Cara. Cara had recently heard back from one of the many hospitals she’d applied to, only to hear that they did not need another nurse.
Before Tong could get the words out of his mouth, Rick interrupted him, “I see you haven’t read your fortune yet.” Rick pointed to Tong’s fortune cookie paper, which he must have forgotten about when they walked in. Tong picked it up, muttering to himself, “Just for that you don’t get to hear what it says.” Tong looked contentedly at the small text on the piece of paper.
Tong’s family had always followed some parts of Chinese culture in order to try to fit in: taking off their shoes indoors, learning to eat with chop-sticks, and of course storytelling. Tong had been raised on bedtime stories until he was 16. The stories his parents told him taught him about morals, ethics, and on occasion fortune cookies. One particular story was about a young Chinese prince named Yuko, heir to China’s western dynasty. He once ordered a cook to make him a cookie, simple and plain enough to make one for every citizen of their province. The cook agreed, but was curious as to why. The prince told him, “I aim to motivate our people in a time of great sorrow.” The province was in a time of morning over the loss of their king, and the prince aimed to show them that he was the perfect candidate to replace him. The cook was confused, “You aim to motivate the people with cookies?” And it was then the king unveiled his plan, he aimed to write motivational messages along with teachings of Confucius onto small strips of paper, which could be slipped into the cookies, and found by the people eating them. This would help the morale of the workforce and rally them in his favor. The cook agreed that it was an excellent plan, but the cook did not believe that was enough. He created new types of messages, ones which the prince had never intended. These messages described future events which were to come in the peoples’ lives, events such as premature death, pregnancy, and sudden claims to wealth. It is said that all of these fortunes came true, for better or for worse. These fortunes were few and far between, but they held great appeal amongst the people. Eventually the people became so engrossed with them that they swarmed the cook’s hall, and tried to take fortunes for themselves. But the cook had disappeared, along with all the fortunes, so the people tried to write fortunes for themselves. It did not work, and the Prince was infuriated with the cook who was only ever supposed to provide the people with morale, not false hopes. The dynasty soon crumbled, and the cook was never heard from again. However, the cookie became a favorite treat of China’s people, and the fortunes became traditional. It is said that he still writes real fortunes into the cookies, and places them in fortune cookies all around the world. If you were to find a real fortune such as this, it is said to be of great importance, and sometimes can mean imminent danger. So when Tong read, “Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing.” He could feel gravity in the situation.
After reading what the fortune had to say, Tong looked around, wildly searching for some sign of a prank. But somehow he knew that this wasn’t a joke. He got up from his seat, and ran out the front door of the restaurant. On his way out, he noticed the bewildered looks on his friends’ faces, they had no idea what was about to unfold. Cara got the check, and Rick ran after Tong yelling, “You’re not seriously going to leave us on a day as special as this are you?!”
After Tong had finally driven a safe distance from the city in his truck, he looked back, wondering what any of this could possibly mean. Tong, could not have imagined the events to come. He soon got a call from his sister, Ming, which was odd considering they hadn’t talked in over a year. His entire family stayed rather disconnected from each other, and after he left for college there was very little keeping them in contact. “You need to get here now; I’ll explain everything when you arrive.” All he could hear was a click and the dial tone, and she was gone.
He started back on the road, getting all sorts of calls from Cara and Rick. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do. Could he really just ignore them? He had finally arrived; his sister brought him inside without saying a word. He couldn’t help himself any longer; as soon as they got inside, he barraged her with questions. She held up her hand as if to ask for him to pause. He did, and she explained that Los Alamos Laboratories had begun using the nuclear reactor at the University of New Mexico for experiments to find a new kind of theorized particle without telling the professor, using the codes he had so willingly given them. They called it the “Ghost particle,” but they didn’t know the creation of such a particle would be the end of them. Now he asked her to pause, with the question, “Why did you bring me down here then? I might be the only one capable of stopping them, you could have simply told me over the phone.”
She resumed what she was saying with a sigh, “This is where things get a bit weird. The, ‘Ghost particle’ is not a new particle. You see, it was actually created long ago in ancient China, by a boy named Yuko and his cook…” Tong interrupted, “Yuko the maker of the fortune cookie?! Why would we need a nuclear reactor then?” Ming resumed again, “So you remember? Well that cook was no regular cook. He was a monk, learning about souls. He figured out a way to move his soul in and out of his body. This is called a ‘soul removal’. He was the first person to ever learn how to do this; unfortunately his intentions were not for good. He was spiteful of the world for never getting his way. So he left his temple, and concocted a plan for his new-found skill. He aimed to turn the dynasty to rubble. He learned a new skill along the way, which is called a ‘soul transfer’. In this art the soul is traded with another person, in souls the intentions and influences of a person remain, however the body is traded. He transferred his soul with a high chef, who knew nothing of what was happening.”
“Souls were more recently found to be preserved within a particle which has been dubbed the, ‘Ghost particle’. The ghost particle can be found within every human on the planet, but most people have no idea they can manipulate it. The, ‘Ghost particle’ was first discovered by the ‘Soul society,’ a group of people trained in the arts of the Soul and the, ‘Ghost particle,’ they are made up of everyday people all over the world, trained to maintain complete secrecy.”
“After the transfer, the monk poisoned the king’s food. One day he learned a skill we have yet to reproduce, allowing him to claim an original idea with his soul. With this he was able to modify certain aspects of any reproduced form of the idea. It was a sort of soul-bound copyright. This included the text of the fortune cookie, which he used to alter the subconscious thoughts of people from around the world. It is extremely difficult in this day and age because there are very few useful, original ideas left to modify. This allowed him to ruin the prince’s chance at becoming king, and the dynasty’s chance at thriving for centuries to come. What he was unable to foresee however was his idea would live on even after the dynasty collapsed. He would continue to live inside the idea for as long as fortune cookies were produced. He however did not feel the urge to do anything with his power for quite some time; until one day, he found out about the ‘Soul Society,’ so in order to keep his place of power, he has been after us ever since. We believe he’s going to try to use the newly made unstable ghost particle in order to destroy the main base of the ‘Soul Society,’ which has remained at a secret location in the Grand Canyon for over a hundred years.”
“The monk’s soul is to this day weaving the fortunes of many greatly powerful people using cookies. Some of these powerful people are the people who run the Los Alamos nuclear facility, who he had gradually persuaded with cookies all over the world. His plan is to cause a catastrophe of massive proportions, because unfortunately this particle, unless treated delicately, is extremely unstable. Not only that, but its fuel source spreads all around the world.”
“We determined there was no way of stopping his plan without your help. And you had no way of stopping them even if I’d told you about all of this while you were there. There were too many safeguards in place. Fortunately I am also a member of the ‘Soul Society,’ and as such I have been asked to bring you here to determine how useful you could be to us. For you see, the since the time of the first Soul release, a great many things have happened, including another one of the monks from the same group learning the ways of ‘Soul removal’. He later went on to form the ‘Soul society’. It was here that he not only taught people the ways of, ‘Soul techniques,’ but also built a lineage of study which would live on for centuries. This lineage has since come up with some of the most powerful Soul techniques to have ever been created.
However few of the techniques he learned were very strong. Tong became a master soul technician though. Tong eventually told his friends about everything. He saved the town by blasting the unstable off into space before it exploded, using his new found techniques to get to it. It created quite the fireworks display.