REAL-TIME VIDEO OF DEAD PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HAVE COFFEE
WITH: A NOVELLA
(SERIALIZED AND BROKEN UP INTO SECTIONS FOR YOUR
READING PLEASURE, AS DENOTED BELOW)
Prologues and Stars: 
Ghostboy Dies in Tragic Mishap: 
Interzone:  
TO BE CONTINUED IN DIAGRAM 5.1
Despite the fact that Tito and I were born in Kansas,
we are not from here. I've never felt like I was from anywhere. When my
parents died, I was already a ward of Hollywood. After I met my own end,
I returned to Kansas only because I had inherited property and it seemed
as far away as possible.
In restaurants and gas stations, we
encounter people with a soft lilt to their voice, people who refer to
themselves as Kansans, people who know exactly how a Kansan treats neighbors
and makes piecrust. I've always wanted to believe that Kansans exist —
or Californians, or Washingtonians— that they comb their hair in
a unique way. I've wanted to believe that I was simply searching for the
place where I my mannerisms originated.
In the last few months, since hooking
up with the others, I've started to believe that, in general, locals fake
it. Accents are learned, street names memorized. Nine out of ten houses
get cable, the internet, the same news you get at your local doughnut
shop, all the way down to the gossip about the naked dress the Johnson
girl wore to the spring formal.
Kansas has no shortage of interesting dead people.
Still, we might have moved if we could've
gotten one of Burroughs's other places, especially the winter home. That
place, in Mexico, is now a monastery. They weathered Tito's maelstrom
of offers and counter-offers. Marxist or not, I've seen him work money
like a well-toothed saw, patient enough to let gravity take over. What
he wants toppled, topples.
But the monks held their ground, and
Tito refused to broadcast from a space we didn't own. "Master's tools,"
The house is in Lawrence.
It was Burroughs' office. It's a raised
ranch, smug and sparse. Tight-weave, brown carpet, off-white paint on
the walls. Barely lived in. It would be fit for an investment banker if
not for all of the phone jacks, seventeen of them, lined up, one against
another, along the length of the hallway baseboard.
"Revolution is data," Tito
says. Wellbutrin puffs his cheeks. The last chord in its port, they head
to the basement where we will spend our day and a half.
Instead of following them, I kick
off my shoes and pad around on the carpet. I make my way to the bathroom.
I don't need to pee, but I flush the toilet with the palm of my hand to
see it run. I turn on the shower with my elbow. I wash my hands and face
before shutting it off. I manage to get the blinds open, and through the
tiny window I watch the backyard. There is no grass or soil. It is not
especially rocky, mostly long slats of clay. There is an old, plastic
igloo and a chain on a spike that's been half-twisted into the ground.
I watch for a while, wondering who inherited the dog. Perhaps it died
I go to join the others.
I open every closet, peer out of every
window, flip every switch in the house. In the phone-jack room, one of
the switches makes Tito swear from the basement. I turn it back on and
go to the kitchen. I use my thumbs to open the oven. It isn't large, just
wide enough for a small turkey. I rock back and forth on my heels, checking
the floor for squeaks.
"Revolution doesn't wait,"
Tito yells from the basement.
"I've finished the preview,"
Wellbutrin says. He is more polite than Tito, but he means the same thing.
From the beginning, it's been more important to me to see how the dead
lived, to smell the tap for minerals, to see how quickly the shower steams
up the bathroom mirror. Tito and Wellbutrin will do the same things I
just did, but not until we get what we came for.
I flip a few more switches on and
off and head to the laundry room.
It is not lost on me that, at the
first house, I made them wait almost two hours.
"We are un-fettering, re-conceiving," Tito
says with a verve that can be mustered only by a Marxist from suburban
Kansas City, a multimillionaire before he graduated from high school.
"These are the master's tools,"
he says. "Trick them up and Burroughs' ass baboons will soon be flipping
cars in Everywhere City." He gives us a wild, thumbs-up sort of gesture.
"May you remember everything,"
he says to the monitor, his lips a few inches from the screen. "May
you choke on it," he says before pulling back into his chair.
We have started.
All three times now, there has been
a strangeness to the beginning. Indelible as the move from private to
public is, it feels like something. It's not like little hairs on the
neck or goose flesh. Not like being watched. It's more like an extended
version of seeing a photographer's flash and knowing that a split-second
version of you has been recorded. Even though I am not on camera, I feel
it again now, as we bring Burroughs' house to you in streaming video.
It doesn't matter if you are watching. I can feel it, coming from the
box, a frequency that only hums when we are sending.
Tito made his money in sound, though his parents had
plenty to help him out. He dabbled in pirate stuff, at first, though he
won't admit he liked the games, the stolen music, the free software. He
won't admit he liked the money. "The material was just a metaphor
for my sadness," he says of it.
Mostly, I think he's right. He was
awkward and lonely at the right time. Solitude turned into deep study,
which turned into money. Theory came after the money, Marx on the back
of a software program and the company he formed and sold within nine months.
He says he was developing the ideology early, getting bootlegs and cheat
codes to poorer hands. "Even the program was about redistribution,"
he says. "Robin Hood in binary."
I don't buy it.
Still, the program was a kind of revolution.
I really can't tell you what it does. All I know is that it works, fills
the room with music, makes voice recognition work better. And that it
spread like contagion. Rolling Stone did a piece on him, a snap shot before
I knew him. I saw the picture, the same bone structure as now, but his
skin was too pale. He hadn't found his revolution yet, and you can tell.
"Go to two," he says.
I watch him adjust our monitor.
His hands are so small, his fingers
barely bone, as fragile as mine were.
Though I typically don't trust people
who understand technology — they seem like the pharaoh's magicians,
unable to see a plague for what it is — Tito is different. As he
cracks his hands, and his foot rattles against a table leg, I think that
I trust him because he seems as uneasy with the magic as I am.
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