Illustration by Idiots’Books
Death was deep into the story now. The Brazilians had forked off their own ride—they’d had their own New Work culture, too, centered in the favelas, so they had different stories to tell. Some of the ride operators imported a few of their scenes, tentatively, and some of the ride fans were recreating the Brazil scenes on their own passes through the ride.
It was all in there, if you knew where to look for it, and the best part was, no one had written it. It had written itself. The collective judgement of people who rode through had turned chaos into coherence.
Or had it? The message-boards were rife with speculation that The Story had been planted by someone—maybe the ride’s creators, maybe some clan of riders—who’d inserted it deliberately. These discussions bordered on the metaphysical: what was an “organic” ride decision? It made Death Waits’s head swim.
The thing that was really doing his head in, though, was the Disney stuff. Sammy—he couldn’t even think of Sammy without a sick feeling in his stomach, crashing waves of nausea that transcended even his narcotic haze—Sammy was making these grotesque parodies of the ride. He was pushing them out to the world’s living rooms. Even the deleted rides from the glory days of the goth Fantasyland, in time-limited miniature. If he’d still been at Disney Parks, he would have loved this idea. It was just what he loved, the knowledge that he was sharing experience with his people around the world, part of a tribe even if he couldn’t see them.
Now, in the era of the ride, he could see how dumb this was. How thin and shallow and commercial. Why should they have to pay some giant evil corporation to convene their community?
He kept trying to write about The Story, kept failing. It wouldn’t come. But Sammy—he knew what he wanted to say about Sammy. He typed until they sedated him, and then typed some more when he woke up. He had old emails to refer to. He pasted them in.
After three days of doing this, the lawyer came back. Tom Levine was dressed in a stern suit with narrow lapels and a tie pierced with some kind of frat pin. He wasn’t much older than Death, but he made Death feel like a little kid.
“I need to talk to you about your Internet activity,” he said, sitting down beside him. He’d brought along a salt-water taffy assortment bought from the roadside, cut into double-helix molecules and other odd biological forms—an amoeba, a skeleton.
“OK?” Death said. They’d switched him to something new for the pain that day, and given him a rocker-switch he could use to drizzle it into his IV when it got bad. He’d hit it just before the lawyer came to see him and now he couldn’t concentrate much. Plus he wasn’t used to talking. Writing online was better. He could write something, save it, go back and re-read it later and clean it up if it turned out he’d gone off on a stoned ramble.
“You know we’re engaged in some very high-stakes litigation here, right, Darren?”
He hated it when people called him Darren.
“Death,” he said. His toothless lisp was pathetic, like an old wino’s.
“Death, OK. This high-stakes litigation needs a maximum of caution and control. This is a fifteen-year journey that ends when we’ve broken the back of the company that did this to you. It ends when we take them for every cent, bankrupt their executives, take their summer homes, freeze their accounts. You understand that?”
Death hadn’t really understood that. It sounded pretty tiring. Exhausting. Fifteen years. He was only nineteen now. He’d be thirty-four, and that was only if the lawyer was estimating correctly.
“Oh,” he said.
“Well, not that you’re going to have to take part in fifteen years’ worth of this. It’s likely we’ll be done with your part in a year, tops. But the point is that when you go online and post material that’s potentially harmful to this case—”
Death closed his eyes. He’d posted the wrong thing. This had been a major deal when he was at Disney, what he was and wasn’t allowed to post about—though in practice, he’d posted about everything, sticking the private stuff in private discussions.
“Look, you can’t write about the case, or anything involved with it, that’s what it comes down to. If you write about that stuff and you say the wrong thing, you could blow this whole suit. They’d get away clean.”
Death shook his head. Not write about it at all?
“No,” he said. “No.”
“I’m not asking you, Death. I can get a court order if I have to. This is serious—it’s not some funny little game. There are billions on the line here. One wrong word, one wrong post and pfft, it’s all over. And nothing in email, either—it’s likely everything you write is going to go through discovery. Don’t write anything personal in any of your mail—nothing you wouldn’t want in a court record.”
“I can’t do that,” Death said. He sounded like a fucking retard, between talking through his mashed mouth and talking through the tears. “I can’t. I live in email.”
“Well, now you’ll have a reason to go outside. This isn’t up for negotiation. When I was here last, I thought I made the seriousness of this case clear to you. I’m frankly amazed that you were immature and irresponsible enough to write what I’ve read.”
“I can’t—” Death said.
The lawyer purpled. He didn’t look like a happy-go-lucky tanned preppie anymore. He looked Dad-scary, like one of those fathers in Disney who was about to seriously lose his shit and haul off and smack a whiny kid. Death’s own Pawpaw, who’d stood in for his father, had gone red like that whenever he “mouthed off,” a sin that could be committed even without opening his mouth. He had an instinctive curl-up-and-hide reaction to it, and the lawyer seemed to sense this, looming over him. He felt like he was about to be eaten.
“You listen to me, Darren—this is not the kind of thing you fuck up. This isn’t something I’m going to fuck up. I win my cases and you’re not going to change that. There’s too much at stake here for you to blow it all with your childish, selfish—”
He seemed to catch himself then, and he snorted a hot breath through his nose that blew over Death’s face. “Listen, there’s a lot on the line here. More money than you or I are worth. I’m trying to help you out here. Whatever you write, whatever you say, it’s going to be very closely scrutinized. From now on, you should treat every piece of information that emanates from your fingertips as likely to be covered on the evening news and repeated to everyone you’ve ever met. No matter how private you think you’re being, it’ll come out. It’s not pretty, and I know you didn’t ask for it, but you’re here, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
He left then, embarrassed at losing his temper, embarrassed at Death’s meek silence. Death poked at his laptop some. He thought about writing down more notes, but that was probably in the same category.
He closed his eyes and now, now he felt the extent of his injuries, felt them truly for the first time since he’d woken up in this hospital. There were deep, grinding pains in his legs—both knees broken, fracture in the left thigh. His ribs hurt every time he breathed. His face was a ruin, his mouth felt like he had twisted lumps of hamburger glued to his torn lips. His dick—well, they’d catheterized him, but that didn’t account for the feelings down there. He’d been kicked repeatedly and viciously, and they told him that the reconstructive surgeries—surgeries, plural—would take some time, and nothing was certain until they were done.
He’d managed to pretend that his body wasn’t there for so long as he was able to poke at the computer. Now it came back to him. He had the painkiller rocker-switch and the pain wasn’t any worse than what passed for normal, but he had an idea that if he hit it enough times, he’d be able to get away from his body for a while again.
He tried it.
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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.