Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 2 of 61

He had a point. Here I was, only in my second or third adulthood, and already ready to toss it all in and do something, anything, else. He had a point — but I wasn’t about to admit it. “So you say. I say, I take a chance when I strike up a conversation in a bar, when I fall in love. . . And what about the deadheads? Two people I know, they just went deadhead for ten thousand years! Tell me that’s not taking a chance!” Truth be told, almost everyone I’d known in my eighty-some years were deadheading or jaunting or just gone. Lonely days, then.

“Brother, that’s committing half-assed suicide. The way we’re going, they’ll be lucky if someone doesn’t just switch ‘em off when it comes time to reanimate. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting a little crowded around here.”

I made pish-tosh sounds and wiped off my forehead with a bar-napkin — the Gazoo was beastly hot on summer nights. “Uh-huh, just like the world was getting a little crowded a hundred years ago, before Free Energy. Like it was getting too greenhousey, too nukey, too hot or too cold. We fixed it then, we’ll fix it again when the time comes. I’m gonna be here in ten thousand years, you damn betcha, but I think I’ll do it the long way around.”

He cocked his head again, and gave it some thought. If it had been any of the other grad students, I’d have assumed he was grepping for some bolstering factoids to support his next sally. But with him, I just knew he was thinking about it, the old-fashioned way.

“I think that if I’m still here in ten thousand years, I’m going to be crazy as hell. Ten thousand years, pal! Ten thousand years ago, the state-of-the-art was a goat. You really think you’re going to be anything recognizably human in a hundred centuries? Me, I’m not interested in being a post-person. I’m going to wake up one day, and I’m going to say, ‘Well, I guess I’ve seen about enough,’ and that’ll be my last day.”

I had seen where he was going with this, and I had stopped paying attention while I readied my response. I probably should have paid more attention. “But why? Why not just deadhead for a few centuries, see if there’s anything that takes your fancy, and if not, back to sleep for a few more? Why do anything so final?”

He embarrassed me by making a show of thinking it over again, making me feel like I was just a half-pissed glib poltroon. “I suppose it’s because nothing else is. I’ve always known that someday, I was going to stop moving, stop seeking, stop kicking, and have done with it. There’ll come a day when I don’t have anything left to do, except stop.”


On campus, they called him Keep-A-Movin’ Dan, because of his cowboy vibe and because of his lifestyle, and he somehow grew to take over every conversation I had for the next six months. I pinged his Whuffie a few times, and noticed that it was climbing steadily upward as he accumulated more esteem from the people he met.

I’d pretty much pissed away most of my Whuffie — all the savings from the symphonies and the first three theses — drinking myself stupid at the Gazoo, hogging library terminals, pestering profs, until I’d expended all the respect anyone had ever afforded me. All except Dan, who, for some reason, stood me to regular beers and meals and movies.

I got to feeling like I was someone special — not everyone had a chum as exotic as Keep-A-Movin’ Dan, the legendary missionary who visited the only places left that were closed to the Bitchun Society. I can’t say for sure why he hung around with me. He mentioned once or twice that he’d liked my symphonies, and he’d read my Ergonomics thesis on applying theme-park crowd-control techniques in urban settings, and liked what I had to say there. But I think it came down to us having a good time needling each other.

I’d talk to him about the vast carpet of the future unrolling before us, of the certainty that we would encounter alien intelligences some day, of the unimaginable frontiers open to each of us. He’d tell me that deadheading was a strong indicator that one’s personal reservoir of introspection and creativity was dry; and that without struggle, there is no real victory.

This was a good fight, one we could have a thousand times without resolving. I’d get him to concede that Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn’t starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented — your personal capital with your friends and neighbors — you more accurately gauged your success.

And then he’d lead me down a subtle, carefully baited trail that led to my allowing that while, yes, we might someday encounter alien species with wild and fabulous ways, that right now, there was a slightly depressing homogeneity to the world.

On a fine spring day, I defended my thesis to two embodied humans and one prof whose body was out for an overhaul, whose consciousness was present via speakerphone from the computer where it was resting. They all liked it. I collected my sheepskin and went out hunting for Dan in the sweet, flower-stinking streets.

He’d gone. The Anthro major he’d been torturing with his war-stories said that they’d wrapped up that morning, and he’d headed to the walled city of Tijuana, to take his shot with the descendants of a platoon of US Marines who’d settled there and cut themselves off from the Bitchun Society.

So I went to Disney World.

In deference to Dan, I took the flight in realtime, in the minuscule cabin reserved for those of us who stubbornly refused to be frozen and stacked like cordwood for the two hour flight. I was the only one taking the trip in realtime, but a flight attendant dutifully served me a urine-sample-sized orange juice and a rubbery, pungent, cheese omelet. I stared out the windows at the infinite clouds while the autopilot banked around the turbulence, and wondered when I’d see Dan next.

Comments

  1. TurtleReader Identicon Icon

    TurtleReader wrote:

    poltroon
    A base coward

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)