Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 8 of 61

The next time I died, they’d improved the technology somewhat. I’d had a massive stroke in my seventy-third year, collapsing on the ice in the middle of a house-league hockey game. By the time they cut my helmet away, the hematomae had crushed my brain into a pulpy, blood-sotted mess. I’d been lax in backing up, and I lost most of a year. But they woke me gently, with a computer-generated precis of the events of the missing interval, and a counselor contacted me daily for a year until I felt at home again in my skin. Again, my life rebooted, and I found myself in Disney World, methodically flensing away the relationships I’d built and starting afresh in Boston, living on the ocean floor and working the heavy-metal harvesters, a project that led, eventually, to my Chem thesis at U of T.

After I was shot dead at the Tiki Room, I had the opportunity to appreciate the great leaps that restores had made in the intervening ten years. I woke in my own bed, instantly aware of the events that led up to my third death as seen from various third-party POVs: security footage from the Adventureland cameras, synthesized memories extracted from Dan’s own backup, and a computer-generated fly-through of the scene. I woke feeling preternaturally calm and cheerful, and knowing that I felt that way because of certain temporary neurotransmitter presets that had been put in place when I was restored.

Dan and Lil sat at my bedside. Lil’s tired, smiling face was limned with hairs that had snuck loose of her ponytail. She took my hand and kissed the smooth knuckles. Dan smiled beneficently at me and I was seized with a warm, comforting feeling of being surrounded by people who really loved me. I dug for words appropriate to the scene, decided to wing it, opened my mouth and said, to my surprise, “I have to pee.”

Dan and Lil smiled at each other. I lurched out of the bed, naked, and thumped to the bathroom. My muscles were wonderfully limber, with a brand-new spring to them. After I flushed I leaned over and took hold of my ankles, then pulled my head right to the floor, feeling the marvelous flexibility of my back and legs and buttocks. A scar on my knee was missing, as were the many lines that had crisscrossed my fingers. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that my nose and earlobes were smaller and perkier. The familiar crow’s-feet and the frown-lines between my eyebrows were gone. I had a day’s beard all over — head, face, pubis, arms, legs. I ran my hands over my body and chuckled at the ticklish newness of it all. I was briefly tempted to depilate all over, just to keep this feeling of newness forever, but the neurotransmitter presets were evaporating and a sense of urgency over my murder was creeping up on me.

I tied a towel around my waist and made my way back to the bedroom. The smells of tile-cleaner and flowers and rejuve were bright in my nose, effervescent as camphor. Dan and Lil stood when I came into the room and helped me to the bed. “Well, this sucks,” I said.

I’d gone straight from the uplink through the utilidors — three quick cuts of security cam footage, one at the uplink, one in the corridor, and one at the exit in the underpass between Liberty Square and Adventureland. I seemed bemused and a little sad as I emerged from the door, and began to weave my way through the crowd, using a kind of sinuous, darting shuffle that I’d developed when I was doing field-work on my crowd-control thesis. I cut rapidly through the lunchtime crowd toward the long roof of the Tiki Room, thatched with strips of shimmering aluminum cut and painted to look like long grass.

Fuzzy shots now, from Dan’s POV, of me moving closer to him, passing close to a group of teenaged girls with extra elbows and knees, wearing environmentally controlled cloaks and cowls covered with Epcot Center logomarks. One of them is wearing a pith helmet, from the Jungle Traders shop outside of the Jungle Cruise. Dan’s gaze flicks away, to the Tiki Room’s entrance, where there is a short queue of older men, then back, just as the girl with the pith helmet draws a stylish little organic pistol, like a penis with a tail that coils around her arm. Casually, grinning, she raises her arm and gestures with the pistol, exactly like Lil does with her finger when she’s uploading, and the pistol lunges forward. Dan’s gaze flicks back to me. I’m pitching over, my lungs bursting out of my chest and spreading before me like wings, spinal gristle and viscera showering the guests before me. A piece of my nametag, now shrapnel, strikes Dan in the forehead, causing him to blink. When he looks again, the group of girls is still there, but the girl with the pistol is long gone.

The fly-through is far less confused. Everyone except me, Dan and the girl is grayed-out. We’re limned in highlighter yellow, moving in slow-motion. I emerge from the underpass and the girl moves from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse to the group of her friends. Dan starts to move towards me. The girl raises, arms and fires her pistol. The self-guiding smart-slug, keyed to my body chemistry, flies low, near ground level, weaving between the feet of the crowd, moving just below the speed of sound. When it reaches me, it screams upwards and into my spine, detonating once it’s entered my chest cavity.

The girl has already made a lot of ground, back toward the Adventureland/Main Street, USA gateway. The fly-through speeds up, following her as she merges with the crowds on the street, ducking and weaving between them, moving toward the breezeway at Sleeping Beauty Castle. She vanishes, then reappears, forty minutes later, in Tomorrowland, near the new Space Mountain complex, then disappears again.

“Has anyone ID’d the girl?” I asked, once I’d finished reliving the events. The anger was starting to boil within me now. My new fists clenched for the first time, soft palms and uncallused fingertips.

Dan shook his head. “None of the girls she was with had ever seen her before. The face was one of the Seven Sisters — Hope.” The Seven Sisters were a trendy collection of designer faces. Every second teenage girl wore one of them.

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