Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 57 of 61

Lil’s eyes blazed. “Let me handle this,” she said. “All right?”

Rita stood up abruptly. “You do whatever you want,” she said, and stormed out of the room.

“Why are you coming here for help?” Tom said, ever the voice of reason. “You seem capable enough.”

“I’m going to be taking a lethal injection at the end of the week,” Dan said. “Three days. That’s personal, but you asked.”

Tom shook his head. Some friends you’ve got yourself, I could see him thinking it.

“That soon?” Lil asked, a throb in her voice.

Dan nodded.

In a dreamlike buzz, I stood and wandered out into the utilidor, out through the western castmember parking, and away.

I wandered along the cobbled, disused Walk Around the World, each flagstone engraved with the name of a family that had visited the Park a century before. The names whipped past me like epitaphs.

The sun came up noon high as I rounded the bend of deserted beach between the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. Lil and I had come here often, to watch the sunset from a hammock, arms around each other, the Park spread out before us like a lighted toy village.

Now the beach was deserted, the Wedding Pavilion silent. I felt suddenly cold though I was sweating freely. So cold.

Dreamlike, I walked into the lake, water filling my shoes, logging my pants, warm as blood, warm on my chest, on my chin, on my mouth, on my eyes.

I opened my mouth and inhaled deeply, water filling my lungs, choking and warm. At first I sputtered, but I was in control now, and I inhaled again. The water shimmered over my eyes, and then was dark.

I woke on Doctor Pete’s cot in the Magic Kingdom, restraints around my wrists and ankles, a tube in my nose. I closed my eyes, for a moment believing that I’d been restored from a backup, problems solved, memories behind me.

Sorrow knifed through me as I realized that Dan was probably dead by now, my memories of him gone forever.

Gradually, I realized that I was thinking nonsensically. The fact that I remembered Dan meant that I hadn’t been refreshed from my backup, that my broken brain was still there, churning along in unmediated isolation.

I coughed again. My ribs ached and throbbed in counterpoint to my head. Dan took my hand.

“You’re a pain in the ass, you know that?” he said, smiling.

“Sorry,” I choked.

“You sure are,” he said. “Lucky for you they found you — another minute or two and I’d be burying you right now.”

No, I thought, confused. They’d have restored me from backup. Then it hit me: I’d gone on record refusing restore from backup after having it recommended by a medical professional. No one would have restored me after that. I would have been truly and finally dead. I started to shiver.

“Easy,” Dan said. “Easy. It’s all right now. Doctor says you’ve got a cracked rib or two from the CPR, but there’s no brain damage.”

“No additional brain damage,” Doctor Pete said, swimming into view. He had on his professionally calm bedside face, and it reassured me despite myself.

He shooed Dan away and took his seat. Once Dan had left the room, he shone lights in my eyes and peeked in my ears, then sat back and considered me. “Well, Julius,” he said. “What exactly is the problem? We can get you a lethal injection if that’s what you want, but offing yourself in the Seven Seas Lagoon just isn’t good show. In the meantime, would you like to talk about it?”

Part of me wanted to spit in his eye. I’d tried to talk about it and he’d told me to go to hell, and now he changes his mind? But I did want to talk.

“I didn’t want to die,” I said.

“Oh no?” he said. “I think the evidence suggests the contrary.”

“I wasn’t trying to die,” I protested. “I was trying to –” What? I was trying to. . .abdicate. Take the refresh without choosing it, without shutting out the last year of my best friend’s life. Rescue myself from the stinking pit I’d sunk into without flushing Dan away along with it. That’s all, that’s all.

“I wasn’t thinking — I was just acting. It was an episode or something. Does that mean I’m nuts?”

“Oh, probably,” Doctor Pete said, offhandedly. “But let’s worry about one thing at a time. You can die if you want to, that’s your right. I’d rather you lived, if you want my opinion, and I doubt that I’m the only one, Whuffie be damned. If you’re going to live, I’d like to record you saying so, just in case. We have a backup of you on file — I’d hate to have to delete it.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I’d like to be restored if there’s no other option.” It was true. I didn’t want to die.

“All right then,” Doctor Pete said. “It’s on file and I’m a happy man. Now, are you nuts? Probably. A little. Nothing a little counseling and some R&R wouldn’t fix, if you want my opinion. I could find you somewhere if you want.”

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