Vignette: Carrie's Dark Side (560 words)

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Literature Text

Even as a little girl, Carrie had always been ambitious — either to be President of the United States or a billionaire. At the very least she’d wanted to exceed her father, in status if not in mass. In fact, it was her father she credited for this. He’d been an important man in his own right, and his social circle included many rich and powerful people. Through him, she’d learned that those the world called great were not fundamentally different from herself, and there was no reason she couldn’t join them, or surpass them if she had it in her. The road was hard, but it was open and it went to the highest places.

But her ambition came at a cost. While the rest of her lived and loved and cried and regretted, there was always that one part of her brain that was just sitting back and quietly judging the things and people around her, determining if they were to her advantage of not. It had grown stronger as her ambitions had condensed from dreams into plans and conscious choices.

When she’d first looked at Roger — tall, remote Roger with his seeming air of hauteur — most of her had seen him as a challenge. That cold thing inside her had said tall, smart, good-looking, should clean up well. Lots of potential social status. Yes, you can work with this. She told herself that all successful politicians had something like this, but that was no comfort when the calls were coming from inside her head.

Carrie didn’t always obey the cold thing. More than once, it had told her that Mike and Samantha were liabilities and should be cut loose. But even when she didn’t, it usually found a way to rationalize her decisions — not a good look to abandon a brother, even if he is useless.

And sometimes that inner sociopath of hers made her sick to her stomach. Nothing was sacred to it, nothing off-limits. Her father’s death? This will win you sympathy. George’s injury and death? When you speak to veterans’ groups, tell them of this. Drew’s disfigurement and long, slow recovery? This will come in handy during health care discussions. She didn’t like to think of the cold thing as part of herself, but it was never far away. And even if she could have had it removed or exorcised or something, she wouldn’t — she was afraid she needed it.

The cold thing was very pleased with Thel. She was beautiful, brilliant, highly presentable and idealistic without being rebellious — perfect First Daughter material. But it didn’t love her, because it didn’t love. Its approval was creepier than all the men on the street who turned to look at Thel like dogs looking at steak. Much, much creepier, because it was coming from a place where nothing like it should even exist.

And the worst part? Thel knew about the cold thing. She knew. The only thing she wasn’t sure of was to what extent her mother was that thing. (“Are you actually worried about me getting hurt? Or are you just worried that I’m gonna embarrass you?”)

And if she knew, it was a safe bet that Roger knew. And her mother. And who else among her family and friends?

As long as you never let the voters find out about me, you’re all right.
I once wondered if Carrie Camberg, one of the protagonists of what is now the Altered Seasons series, had enough flaws. As I've written about her, I've come to discover what her flaws are.
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