Illustration by Idiots’Books
Sammy had filled a cooler and stuck it in the back-seat of his car the night before, programmed his coffee-maker, and when his alarm roused him at 3AM, he hit the road. First he guzzled his thermos of lethal coffee, then reached around in back for bottles of icy distilled water. He kept the windows rolled down and breathed in the swampy, cool morning air, the most promising air of the Florida day, before it all turned to steam and sizzle.
He didn’t bother looking for truck-stops when he needed to piss, just pulled over on the turnpike’s side and let fly. Why not? At that hour, it was just him and the truckers and the tourists with morning flights.
He reached Miami ahead of schedule and had a diner-breakfast big enough to kill a lesser man, a real fatkins affair. He got back on the road groaning from the chow and made it to the old Wal-Mart just as the merchants were setting up their market on the roadside.
When he’d done the Boston ride, he’d been discouraged that they’d kept on with their Who-ville Xmas even though he’d grinched away all their fun, but this time he was expecting something like this. Watching these guys sell souvenirs at the funeral for the ride made him feel pretty good this time around: their disloyalty had to be a real morale-killer for those ride-operators.
The cops were getting twitchy, which made him grin. Twitchy cops were a key ingredient for bad trouble. He reached behind him and pulled an iced coffee from the cooler and cracked it, listening to the hiss as the embedded CO2 cartridge forced bubbles through it.
Now here came a suit. He looked like a genuine mighty morphin’ power broker, which made Sammy worry, because a guy like that hadn’t figured into his plans, but look at that; he was having a huge fight with the eyebrow guy and now the eyebrow guy was running away from him.
Getting the lawyers to agree to spring the budget to file in every location where there was a ride had been tricky. Sammy had had to fudge a little on his research, claim that they were bringing in real money, tie it to the drop in numbers in Florida, and generally do a song and dance, but it was all worth it. These guys clearly didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.
Now eyebrow man was headed for the cop-cars and the entrance, and there, oh yes, there it was. Five cars’ worth of goths, lugging bags full of some kind of home-made or scavenged horror-memorabilia, pulling up short at the entrance.
They piled out of their cars and started milling around, asking questions. Some approached the cops, who seemed in no mood to chat. The body-language could be read at 150 feet:
Goth: But officer, I wanna get on this riiiiiide.
Cop: You sicken me.
Goth: All around me it’s gloom, gloom. Why can’t I go on my riiiiiide?
Cop: I would like to arrest you and lock you up for being a weird, sexually ambiguous melodramatic who’s dumb enough to hang around out of doors, all in black, in Florida.
Goth: Can I take your picture? I’m gonna put it on my blog and then everyone will know what a meanie you are.
Cop: Yap yap yap, little bitch. You go on photographing me and mouthing off, see how long it is before you’re in cuffs in the back of this car.
Scumbag street-vendors: Ha ha ha, look at these goth kids mouthing off to the law, that cop must have minuscule testicles!
Cop: Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Eyebrow guy: Um, can everyone just be nice? I’d prefer that this all not go up in flames.
Scumbags, goths: Hurr hurr hurr, shuttup, look at those dumb cops, ahahaha.
Eyebrow: Oh, shit.
Four more cars pulled up. Now the shoulder was getting really crowded and freeway traffic was slowing to a crawl.
More goths piled out. Family cars approached the snarl, slowed, then sped up again, not wanting to risk the craziness. Maybe some of them would get on the fucking turnpike and drive up to Orlando, where the real fun was.
The four-lane road was down to about a lane and a half, and milling crowds from the shantytown and the arriving cars were clogging what remained of the thoroughfare. Now goths were parking their cars way back at the intersection and walking over, carrying the objects they’d planned to sacrifice to the ride and smoking clove cigarettes.
Sammy saw Death Waits before Death Waits turned his head, and so Sammy had time to duck down before he was spotted. He giggled to himself and chugged his coffee, crouched down below the window.
The situation was heating up now. Lots of people were asking questions of the cops. People trying to drive through got shouted at by the people in the road. Sometimes a goth would slam a fist down on a hood and there’d be a little bit of back and forth. It was a powder-keg, and Sammy decided to touch it off.
He swung his car out into the road and hit the horn and revved his engine, driving through the crowd just a hair faster than was safe. People slapped his car as it went by and he just leaned on the horn, ploughing through, scattering people who knocked over vendors’ tables and stepped on their wares.
In his rear-view, he saw the chaos begin. Someone threw a punch, someone slipped, someone knocked over a table of infringing merch. Wa-hoo! Party time!
He hit the next left, then pointed his car at the freeway. He reached back and snagged another can of coffee and went to work on it. As the can hissed open, he couldn’t help himself: he chuckled. Then he laughed—a full, loud belly-laugh.
* * *
Perry watched it happen as though it were all a dream: The crowds thickening. The cops getting out of their cars and putting their hands on their belts. A distant siren. More people milling around, hanging out in the middle of the road, like idiots, idiots. Then that jerk in the car—what the hell was he thinking, he was going to kill someone!
And then it all exploded. There was a knot of fighting bodies over by the tables, and the knot was getting bigger. The cops were running for them, batons out, pepper-spray out. Perry shouted something, but he couldn’t hear himself. In a second the crowd noises had gone from friendly to an angry roar.
Perry spotted Suzanne watching it all through the viewfinder on her phone, presumably streaming it live, then shouted again, an unheard warning, as a combatant behind her swung wide and clocked her in the head. She went down and he charged for her.
He’d just reached her when a noise went off that dropped him to his knees. It was their antipersonnel sound-cannon, which meant that Lester was around here somewhere. The sound was a physical thing, it made his bowels loose and made his head ring like a gong. Thought was impossible. Everything was impossible except curling up and wrapping your hands around your head.
Painfully, he raised his head and opened his eyes. All around him, people were on their knees. The cops, though, had put giant industrial earmuffs on, the kind of thing you saw jackhammer operators wearing. They were moving rapidly toward… Lester who was in a pickup truck with the AP horn stuck in the cargo bed, wired into the cigarette lighter. They had guns drawn and Lester was looking at them wide-eyed, hands in the air.
Their mouths were moving, but whatever they were saying was inaudible. Perry took his phone out of his pocket and aimed it at them. He couldn’t move without spooking them and possibly knocking himself out from the sound, but he could rodneyking them as they advanced on Lester. He could practically read Lester’s thoughts: If I move to switch this off, they’ll shoot me dead.
The cops closed on Lester and then the sour old male cop was up in the bed and he had Lester by the collar, throwing him to the ground, pointing his gun. His partner moved quickly and efficiently around the bed, eventually figuring out how to unplug the horn. The silence rang in his head. He couldn’t hear anything except a dog-whistle whine from his abused eardrums. Around him, people moved sluggishly, painfully.
He got to his feet as quick as he could and drunk-walked to the truck. Lester was already in plastic cuffs and leg-restraints, and the big, dead-eyed cop was watching an armored police bus roll toward them in the eerie silence of their collective deafness.
Perry managed to switch his phone over to streaming, so that it was uploading everything instead of recording it locally. He faded back behind some of the cars for cover and kept rolling as the riot bus disgorged a flying squadron of helmeted cops who began to methodically and savagely grab, cuff, and toss the groaning crowd lying flat on the ground. He wanted to add narration, but he didn’t trust himself to whisper, since he couldn’t hear his own voice.
A hand came down on his shoulder and he jumped, squeaked, and fell into a defensive pose, waiting for the truncheon to hit him, but it was Suzanne, grim faced, pointing her own phone. She had a laminated press-pass out in her free hand and was holding it up beside her head like a talisman. She pointed off down the road, where some of the goth kids who’d just been arriving when things went down were more ambulatory, having been somewhat shielded from the noise. They were running and being chased by cops. She made a little scooting gesture and Perry understood that she meant he should be following them, getting the video. He sucked in a big breath and nodded once and set off. She gave his hand a firm squeeze and he felt that her palms were slick with sweat.
He kept low and moved slow, keeping the viewfinder up so that he could keep the melee in shot. He hoped like hell that someone watching this online would spring for his bail.
Miraculously, he reached the outlier skirmish without being spotted. He recorded the cops taking the goths down, cuffing them, and hooding one kid who was thrashing like a fish on a hook. It seemed that he would never be spotted. He crept forward, slowly, slowly, trying to feel invisible and unnoticed, trying to project it.
It worked. He was getting incredible footage. He was practically on top of the cops before anyone noticed him. Then there was a shout and a hand grabbed for his phone and the spell was broken. Suddenly his heart was thundering, his pulse pounding in his ears.
He turned on his heel and ran. A mad giggle welled up in his chest. His phone was still streaming, presumably showing wild, nauseous shots of the landscape swinging past as he pumped his arm. He was headed for the ride, for the rear entrance, where he knew he could take cover. He felt the footsteps thud behind him, dimly heard the shouts—but his temporary deafness drowned out the words.
He had his fob out before he reached the doors and he badged in, banging the fob over the touch-plate an instant before slamming into the crash-bar and the doors swung open. He waited in agitation for the doors to hiss shut slowly after him and then it was the gloom of the inside of the ride, dark in his sun-adjusted eyesight.
It was only when the doors shivered behind him that he realized what he’d just done. They’d break in and come and get him, and in the process, they’d destroy the ride, for spite. His eyes were adjusting to the gloom now and he made out the familiar/unfamiliar shapes of the dioramas, now black and lacy with goth memorabilia. This place gave him calm and joy. He would keep them from destroying it.
He set his phone down on the floor, propped against a plaster skull so that the doorway was in the shot. He walked to the door and shouted as loud as he could, his voice inaudible in his own ears. “I’m coming out now!” he shouted. “I’m opening the doors!”
He waited for a two-count, then reached for the lock. He turned it and let the door crash open as two cops in riot-visors came through, pepper-spray at the fore. He was down on the ground, writhing and clawing at his face in an instant, and the phone caught it all.
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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.