Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 41 of 61

He threw his arms open when he caught sight of Dan and me, threw them wide enough to embrace the whole mad, gibbering chaos. “What wonderful flumgubbery!” he shouted, over the noise.

“Sure is,” I agreed. “How’s the prototype coming?”

Suneep waved absently, his short fingers describing trivialities in the air. “In due time, in due time. I’ve put that team onto something else, a kinematics routine for a class of flying spooks that use gasbags to stay aloft — silent and scary. It’s old spy-tech, and the retrofit’s coming tremendously. Take a look!” He pointed a finger at me and, presumably, squirted some data my way.

“I’m offline,” I reminded him gently.

He slapped his forehead, took a moment to push his hair off his face, and gave me an apologetic wave. “Of course, of course. Here.” He unrolled an LCD and handed it to me. A flock of spooks danced on the screen, rendered against the ballroom scene. They were thematically consistent with the existing Mansion ghosts, more funny than scary, and their faces were familiar. I looked around the lab and realized that they’d caricatured various Imagineers.

“Ah! You noticed,” Suneep said, rubbing his hands together. “A very good joke, yes?”

“This is terrific,” I said, carefully. “But I really need some robots up and running by tomorrow night, Suneep. We discussed this, remember?” Without telepresence robots, my recruiting would be limited to fans like Kim, who lived in the area. I had broader designs than that.

Suneep looked disappointed. “Of course. We discussed it. I don’t like to stop my people when they have good ideas, but there’s a time and a place. I’ll put them on it right away. Leave it to me.”

Dan turned to greet someone, and I looked to see who it was. Lil. Of course. She was raccoon-eyed with fatigue, and she reached out for Dan’s hand, saw me, and changed her mind.

“Hi, guys,” she said, with studied casualness.

“Oh, hello!” said Suneep. He fired his finger at her — the flying ghosts, I imagined. Lil’s eyes rolled up for a moment, then she nodded exhaustedly at him.

“Very good,” she said. “I just heard from Lisa. She says the indoor crews are on-schedule. They’ve got most of the animatronics dismantled, and they’re taking down the glass in the Ballroom now.” The Ballroom ghost effects were accomplished by means of a giant pane of polished glass that laterally bisected the room. The Mansion had been built around it — it was too big to take out in one piece. “They say it’ll be a couple days before they’ve got it cut up and ready to remove.”

A pocket of uncomfortable silence descended on us, the roar of the Imagineers rushing in to fill it.

“You must be exhausted,” Dan said, at length.

“Goddamn right,” I said, at the same moment that Lil said, “I guess I am.”

We both smiled wanly. Suneep put his arms around Lil’s and my shoulders and squeezed. He smelled of an exotic cocktail of industrial lubricant, ozone, and fatigue poisons.

“You two should go home and give each other a massage,” he said. “You’ve earned some rest.”

Dan met my eye and shook his head apologetically. I squirmed out from under Suneep’s arm and thanked him quietly, then slunk off to the Contemporary for a hot tub and a couple hours of sleep.

I came back to the Mansion at sundown. It was cool enough that I took a surface route, costume rolled in a shoulderbag, instead of riding through the clattering, air-conditioned comfort of the utilidors.

As a freshening breeze blew across me, I suddenly had a craving for real weather, the kind of climate I’d grown up with in Toronto. It was October, for chrissakes, and a lifetime of conditioning told me that it was May. I stopped and leaned on a bench for a moment and closed my eyes. Unbidden, and with the clarity of a HUD, I saw High Park in Toronto, clothed in its autumn colors, fiery reds and oranges, shades of evergreen and earthy brown. God, I needed a vacation.

I opened my eyes and realized that I was standing in front of the Hall of Presidents, and that there was a queue ahead of me for it, one that stretched back and back. I did a quick sum in my head and sucked air between my teeth: they had enough people for five or six full houses waiting here — easily an hour’s wait. The Hall never drew crowds like this. Debra was working the turnstiles in Betsy Ross gingham, and she caught my eye and snapped a nod at me.

I stalked off to the Mansion. A choir of zombie-shambling new recruits had formed up in front of the gate, and were groaning their way through “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” with a new call-and-response structure. A small audience participated, urged on by the recruits on the scaffolding.

“Well, at least that’s going right,” I muttered to myself. And it was, except that I could see members of the ad-hoc looking on from the sidelines, and the looks weren’t kindly. Totally obsessive fans are a good measure of a ride’s popularity, but they’re kind of a pain in the ass, too. They lipsynch the soundtrack, cadge souvenirs and pester you with smarmy, show-off questions. After a while, even the cheeriest castmember starts to lose patience, develop an automatic distaste for them.

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.)