Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 18 of 61

“Dan,” I said, my voice oddly muffled by the tube’s walls.

“Yeah?” he said. He’d been silent during the journey, the sound of his painful, elbow-dragging progress through the lightless tube my only indicator of his presence.

“Can you reach my back pocket?”

“Oh, shit,” he said.

“Goddamn it,” I said, “keep the fucking editorial to yourself. Can you reach it or not?”

I heard him grunt as he pulled himself up in the tube, then felt his hand groping up my calf. Soon, his chest was crushing my calves into the tube’s floor and his hand was pawing around my ass.

“I can reach it,” he said. I could tell from his tone that he wasn’t too happy about my snapping at him, but I was too wrapped up to consider an apology, despite what must be happening to my Whuffie as Dan did his slow burn.

He fumbled the gun — a narrow cylinder as long as my palm — out of my pocket. “Now what?” he said.

“Can you pass it up?” I asked.

Dan crawled higher, overtop of me, but stuck fast when his ribcage met my glutes. “I can’t get any further,” he said.

“Fine,” I said. “You’ll have to fire it, then.” I held my breath. Would he do it? It was one thing to be my accomplice, another to be the author of the destruction.

“Aw, Jules,” he said.

“A simple yes or no, Dan. That’s all I want to hear from you.” I was boiling with anger — at myself, at Dan, at Debra, at the whole goddamn thing.

“Fine,” he said.

“Good. Dial it up to max dispersion and point it straight up.”

I heard him release the catch, felt a staticky crackle in the air, and then it was done. The gun was a one-shot, something I’d confiscated from a mischievous guest a decade before, when they’d had a brief vogue.

“Hang on to it,” I said. I had no intention of leaving such a damning bit of evidence behind. I resumed my bellycrawl forward to the next service hatch, near the parking lot, where I’d stashed an identical change of clothes for both of us.

We made it back just as the demo was getting underway. Debra’s ad-hocs were ranged around the mezzanine inside the Hall of Presidents, a collection of influential castmembers from other ad-hocs filling the pre-show area to capacity.

Dan and I filed in just as Tim was stringing the velvet rope up behind the crowd. He gave me a genuine smile and shook my hand, and I smiled back, full of good feelings now that I knew that he was going down in flames. I found Lil and slipped my hand into hers as we filed into the auditorium, which had the new-car smell of rug shampoo and fresh electronics.

We took our seats and I bounced my leg nervously, compulsively, while Debra, dressed in Lincoln’s coat and stovepipe, delivered a short speech. There was some kind of broadcast rig mounted over the stage now, something to allow them to beam us all their app in one humongous burst.

Debra finished up and stepped off the stage to a polite round of applause, and they started the demo.

Nothing happened. I tried to keep the shit-eating grin off my face as nothing happened. No tone in my cochlea indicating a new file in my public directory, no rush of sensation, nothing. I turned to Lil to make some snotty remark, but her eyes were closed, her mouth lolling open, her breath coming in short huffs. Down the row, every castmember was in the same attitude of deep, mind-blown concentration. I pulled up a diagnostic HUD.

Nothing. No diagnostics. No HUD. I cold-rebooted.


I was offline.

Offline, I filed out of the Hall of Presidents. Offline, I took Lil’s hand and walked to the Liberty Belle load-zone, our spot for private conversations. Offline, I bummed a cigarette from her.

Lil was upset — even through my bemused, offline haze, I could tell that. Tears pricked her eyes.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she said, after a hard moment’s staring into the moonlight reflecting off the river.

“Tell you?” I said, dumbly.

“They’re really good. They’re better than good. They’re better than us. Oh, God.”

Offline, I couldn’t find stats or signals to help me discuss the matter. Offline, I tried it without help. “I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ve got soul, I don’t think they’ve got history, I don’t think they’ve got any kind of connection to the past. The world grew up in the Disneys — they visit this place for continuity as much as for entertainment. We provide that.” I’m offline, and they’re not — what the hell happened?

“It’ll be okay, Lil. There’s nothing in that place that’s better than us. Different and new, but not better. You know that — you’ve spent more time in the Mansion than anyone, you know how much refinement, how much work there is in there. How can something they whipped up in a couple weeks possibly be better that this thing we’ve been maintaining for all these years?”

She ground the back of her sleeve against her eyes and smiled. “Sorry,” she said. Her nose was red, her eyes puffy, her freckles livid over the flush of her cheeks. “Sorry — it’s just shocking. Maybe you’re right. And even if you’re not — hey, that’s the whole point of a meritocracy, right? The best stuff survives, everything else gets supplanted.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)