writing chapter 10.1
Kurt’s body disappeared. It was some time after his autopsy, while he was hanging out in the cold box and his friends were arranging a service to honor what would probably have been Kurt’s wishes. The lights went out and then the lights didn’t go out, and when they came to collect Kurt’s mortal remains, there was somebody else where the tech sort of remembered putting him. A good search turned up no other surprises than Kurt wasn’t there. Even further concerns of foul play.
Kurt’s acquaintances, rivals, haters and fans gathered for a wake and memorial service. Starting at Peachtree Liquor Store on Baker and proceeding on foot at a dirgelike pace while everyone got shitfaced in Kurt’s memory, working in a variety of substances along the way. The parade route was an abbreviated version of the annual Dragoncon parade, which Kurt had avoided every year since its inception. Their procession snaked around the emptier sidewalks, lesser used hamster tunnels, and secret unknown food courts, around to the stairs that ascended to the Hyatt pool where Kurt’s body was recovered. The first time.
Maybe he would show up again if they held hands and wished. Maybe calling his name a few times would be good. WTF, right? Management asked them to leave when they were just starting to feel Kurt’s presence, so naturally they ignored management’s request.
Kurt was immanent, his energy descending upon them like a flame. By the time security showed up, there was a little confrontation as the mourners expressed their solidarity, but after the news crew got there and people had a chance to vent and cool down a bit, and some of the substances wore off, they all adjourned for Kurt’s wake to Mama Ninfa’s in Peachtree Center.
The whole thing was webcast and people were recording it on their phones, and people were listening in on speakerphone, and word spread, and more people showed up. Some of them were a little shadowy, some wavered, some blinked out after a few drinks.
People remembered seeing friends that they knew weren’t in Atlanta, right there at poolside. It had felt very crowded there, with uncomfortable squeezing from all the people attending the service. Many more people than the fire code allowed. Security cameras showed different crowd densities in any two adjacent frames. Like a crowd shot dissolving into another crowd shot, dissolving into one crowd shot after another.
There were several dark conversational threads in the (mostly imaginary) celebration of Kurt’s life of (mostly unknown) accomplishments. One thread discussed how science and technology were morally neutral, not forces for good or evil, just tools. In the hands of the usual bastards they would definitely be used toward human extermination. For profit.
Another thread was about the quantum enigma they’d witnessed, and how society could never be the same again. “They’ll have to acknowledge that the old ways are dead,” certain early converts reasoned, standing outside the restaurant smoking cigarettes.
Someone advised caution and peace. “Let it crash by itself, you don’t want to try to control its demise. Just step aside and create a harmonious alignment of yourself with quantum technology.
“Enhance the quantum within and everything outside will change,”advised anyone who’d attended one of Anomia’s lectures.
Inside the restaurant there were cellphones and webcams and people wearing the gamegear, and they were all grooving on Kurt and his quantum kernel, promising to do whatever it took to bring the game to a successful launch, even tho none of them were directly responsible for any of it. But they were fans, and supplied all the hope and good wishes necessary for a really great game.
Because everybody was feeling the buzz. “It was real. Really real, like this is. You can do shit, like you can live there.”
“Practically, right? Virtually?”
“No, like real real life, like you live your life and it’s real and shit happens and you get old and die, right? That kind of real. And then you come right back to this life when you stop playing.”
Those who’d seen the demo or the walkthru knew it was real, because it was. They were able to convince those who assumed it was just an intensely involving, completely absorbing videogame with in your face graphics and heart stopping action. They abandoned their skepticism with relief, like learning Santa Claus is in face a real person. Those attending the wake came away feeling like they’d been specially touched by Kurt’s energy. They felt more alive, and saw things with a new expectation of quantum truths, like We’re All One.
Plus they were now running clones of the kernel on their electronic devices. Something strange affected everyone attending Kurt’s memorial service and wake, and some people dared to call that something Kurt. Or exkurt, to be literal.
And after that, things quieted down. The media explained away all the anomalies, shrugging their collective shoulders, calling it a mystery too complex to solve, making jokes and changing the subject. They dwelt instead on the threat of domestic terrorists which was providing lots of new jobs in the domestic security industry.
(write as tv panel discussion). “To bring domestic terrorism to a halt and safeguard the home life of every citizen.” “Unruly populations can be cleansed of instigators and calmed, pacified.” “While the terrorists are neutralized and the threat is ended. Our police department is working closely with security specialists to enhance their response to outbreaks of information.” “Replace the safety net with the safety state.”
Josh and Anomia lapsed into deep depression. Without the game they had nothing, and they were quickly souring on each other. Now that Anomia wasn’t spending all the time she could spare from work on the game, she realized how much she hated her corporate job. The partners kept firing and consolidating departments to bolster their shrinking profits, and she kept having fewer coworkers and more work.
Finally she got sick and wanted to go home and crawl into bed, but they had a deadline, so she stayed, and worked all weekend and was reluctantly given Monday morning off, reluctantly because another project was overdue and it was an emergency that she was slacking off on. But she was undeniably sick, so she stayed in bed, while the infection reached her lungs. Four hours later they called her to come in. “We really need you. You’re vital to our business.” She hung up, wrote her resignation, sent it to personnel, and went back to bed until sometime later in the week when the bronchitis began easing and she began to feel hungry. Josh had trashed the place while she slept and was nowhere to be found.
She stopped in the middle of cleaning it all up and called up a temp agency to sign up. She told Josh she’d quit her job when he came home for dinner (“Your favorite – General Tsao’s”), but it didn’t sink in, and he left her to take the trash out while he played with the Xbox (versu???).
Feeling completely disconnected from him, Anomia contacted a couple of friends and found herself negotiating for a bedroom in a house full of girls in Cabbagetown, in a cheap and rundown house that was falling apart, with a landlord who didn’t give a fuck. It wasn’t better, exactly. The girls had scumbag boyfriends who took up the couch and threw their empties at the trashcan; a lot like Josh, in fact. The girls kept it neat except for the boys, even tho the furniture was out of dumpsters and all their money went to paying off their student loans.
But at least she wasn’t constantly reminded of her failure. Josh handled the new living arrangements with his usual neglect. He moved most of his stuff back to his parent’s basement and joined the sad collection of boyfriends on the couch, trying to make Anomia feel guilty for this fall in living standards. She explained how much stress she was under, and it pissed him off why she would accept such a decline when she could make good money as a stripper. So he started dong meth to get even.
But Anomia was learning more and having more fun than she ever did as a deadend corporate droid. She was learning how to live on miracles, to walk off the edge of the cliff and keep walking. Letting go of safe choices (that weren’t), abandoning schedules (that were never met), and plans (that didn’t work) and trusting that it would all get done somehow. Because that’s how her life quickly became, living in a house full of women, taking whatever job opportunities presented themselves for however long they lasted and whatever new experiences people brought her way.
She found herself dressing more as an artist for her temp gigs. The permanent employees wore corporate drab, skipped lunch, repeated mean spirited gossip and passed dire rumors, while she blithely skipped thru her day helping out relative strangers, doing tasks she found interesting on their own or not at all. Gone was the hate she’d been unaware of, and her attitude wasn’t martyrlike anymore. She took lunches. She went home at five. She got paid for working overtime, and got gifts and appreciation from various grateful clients. She stopped having headaches. And gradually grew less depressed.
As her spirits lifted, she began thinking of Kurt and the game. And dreaming of them. Finally she pulled the game up one day. She was out of the office for lunch, and had found a nice bit of park to sit in and read. But her novel was in a slow spot so she fiddled with her tablet, all banged up now, and sticky around the sides of the insta-keys. There was the game. But it was different.
One night she pulled up the game and found Josh in it. They’d both been visiting for a few weeks, now and then, mainly just standing on the edge of the cloud level surveying their broken game. It was different. They couldn’t identify the change on the carnival levels, but the Antarctica level was now a sheet of ice two miles thick, and sent a frigid wind over everything in the game. They playtested the carnival level, went on a few rides on the Midway, and spent some time picking up trash in Carneytown. But they were horribly cold, despite selecting polar outfits and projecting personal heat shields around themselves.
It was all different. They couldn’t say what. Things seemed even more real than they remembered, the music was more intelligent somehow, the artwork had finer detail. The lights shone with more intensity, the nonplaying characters twinkled, little light things that spoke in their heads. The twinkly things felt a little like Kurt.
They could feel Kurt all around, but that was just their continuing sorrow and guilt.