Illustration by Idiots’Books
Lester wouldn’t work the ride anymore, so Perry took it on his own. Hilda was in town buying groceries—his chest-freezer of gourmet surplus food had blown its compressor and the contents had spoiled in a mess of venison and sour blueberry sauce and duck pancakes—and he stood alone. Normally he loved this, being the carnival barker at the middle of the three-ring circus of fans, tourists and hawkers, but today his cast itched, he hadn’t slept enough, and there were lawyers chasing him. Lots of lawyers.
A caravan of cars pulled into the lot like a Tim Burton version of a funeral, a long train of funnycar hearses with jacked-up rear wheels and leaning chimney-pots, gargoyles and black bunting with super-bright black-light LEDs giving them a commercially eldritch glow. Mixed in were some straight cars, and they came and came and came, car on car. The hawkers got out more stuff, spread it out further, and waited while the caravan maneuvered itself into parking spots, spilling out into the street.
Riders got out of the cars, mostly super-skinny goths—a line of special low-calorie vegan versions of Victorian organ-meat delicacies had turned a mom-and-pop cafe in Portland, Oregon, into a Fortune 500 company a few years before—in elaborate DIY costumery. It shimmered darkly, petticoats and toppers, bodices and big stompy boots and trousers cut off in ribbons at the knees.
The riders converged on one of the straight cars, a beige mini-van, and crowded around it. A moment later, they were moving toward Perry’s ticket-taking stand. The crowd parted as they approached and in Perry saw whom they’d been clustered around. It was a skinny goth kid in a wheelchair like the ones they kept in the ride—they’d get that every now and again, a guest in his own chair, just needing a little wireless +1/-1 box. His hair was shaggy and black with green highlights, stuck out like an anime cosplayer’s. He was white as Wonder Bread, with something funny about his mouth. His legs were in casts that had been wrapped with black gauze, and a pair of black pointy shoes had been slid over his toes, tipped with elaborate silver curlicues.
The chair zipped forward and Perry recognized him in a flash: Death Waits! He felt his mouth drop open and he shut it and came around the stand.
“No way!” he said, and grabbed Death’s hand, encrusted in chunky silver jewelry, a different stylized animal skull on each finger. Death’s ruined mouth pulled up in a kind of smile.
“Nice to see you,” he said, limply squeezing Perry’s hand. “It was very kind of you to visit me in the hospital.”
Perry thought of all the things that had happened since then and wondered how much of it, if any, Death had a right to know about. He leaned in close, conscious of all the observers. “I’m out of the lawsuit. We are. Me and Lester. Fired those guys.” Behind his reflective contacts, Death’s eyes widened a touch.
He slumped a little. “Because of me?”
Perry thought some. “Not exactly. But in a way. It wasn’t us.”
Death smiled. “Thank you.”
Perry straightened up. “Looks like you brought down a good crowd,” he said. “Lots of friends!”
Death nodded. “Lots of friends these days,” he said. An attractive young woman came over and squeezed his shoulder.
They were such a funny bunch in their DIY goth-frocks, micro-manufactured customized boots, their elaborate tattoos and implants and piercings, but for all that, cuddly and earnest with the shadows visible of the geeks they’d been. Perry felt he was smiling so broadly it almost hurt.
“Rides are on me, gang,” he said. “In you go. Your money’s no good here. Any friend of Death Waits rides for free today.”
They cheered and patted him on the back as they went through, and Death Waits looked like he’d grown three inches in his wheelchair, and the pretty girl kissed Perry’s cheek as she went by, and Death Waits had a smile so big you could hardly tell there was anything wrong with his mouth.
They rode it through six times in a row, and as they came back around for another go and another, they talked intently about the story, the story, the story. Perry knew about the story, he’d seen it, and he and Lester had talked it over now and again, but he was still constantly amazed by its ability to inspire riders.
Paying customers slipped in and out, too, and seemed to catch some of the infectious intensity of the story group. They went away in pairs, talking about the story, and shopped the market stalls for a while before coming back to ride again, to look for more story.
They’d never named the ride. It had always been “the ride.” Not even a capital “R.” For a second, Perry wondered if they’d end up calling it “The Story” in the end.
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As part of the ongoing project of crafting Tor.com’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.