Sammy had been through a rehab and knew how they went. You laid off a bunch of people in one fast, hard big bang. Hired some unemployment coaches for the senior unionized employees, scheduled a couple of “networking events” where they could mingle with other unemployed slobs and pass around home-made business cards.
You needed a Judas goat, someone who’d talk up the rehab to the other employees, whom you could rely on. Death Waits had been his judas goat for the Fantasyland goth makeover. He’d tirelessly evangelized the idea to his co-workers, had found goth tru-fans who’d blog the hell out of every inch of the rehab, had run every errand no matter how menial.
But his passion didn’t carry over to dismantling the goth rehab. Sammy should have anticipated that, but he had totally failed to do so. He was just so used to thinking of Death Waits as someone who was a never-questioning slave to the park.
“Come on, cheer up! Look at how cool these thrill rides are going to be. Those were your idea, you know. Check out the coffin-cars and the little photo-op at the end that photoshops all the riders into zombies. That’s got to be right up your alley, right? Your friends are going to love this.”
Death moped as only a goth could. He performed his duties slowly and unenthusiastically. When Sammy pinned him down with a direct question, he let his bangs fall over his eyes, looked down at his feet, and went silent.
“Come on, what the hell is going on? The fences were supposed to be up this morning!” The plan had been to get the maintenance crews in before rope-drop to fence off the doomed rides so that the dismantling could begin. But when he’d shown up at eight, there was no sign of the fences, no sign of the maintenance crews and the rides were all fully staffed.
Death looked at his feet. Sammy bubbled with rage. If you couldn’t trust your own people, you were lost. There were already enough people around the park looking for a way to wrong-foot him.
“Death, I’m talking to you. For Christ’s sake, don’t be such a goddamned baby. You shut down the goddamned rides and send those glue-sniffers home. I want a wrecking crew here by lunchtime.”
Death Waits looked at his feet some more. His floppy black wings of hair covered his face, but from the snuffling noises, Sammy knew there was some crying going on underneath all that hair.
“Suck it up,” he said. “Or go home.”
Sammy turned on his heel and started for the door, and that was when Death Waits leapt on his back, dragged him to the ground and started punching him. He wasn’t much of a puncher, but he did have a lot of chunky silver skull-rings that really stung. He pasted a couple good ones on Sammy before Sammy came to his senses and threw the skinny kid off of him. Strangely, Sammy’s anger was dissipated by the actual, physical violence. He had never thrown a punch in his life and he was willing to bet the same was true of Death Waits. There was something almost funny about an actual punch-up.
Death Waits picked himself up and looked at Sammy. The kid’s eyeliner was in smears down his cheeks and his hair was standing up on end. Sammy shook his head slowly.
“Don’t bother cleaning out your locker. I’ll have your things sent to you. And don’t stop on your way out of the park, either.”
He could have called security, but that would have meant sitting there with Death Waits until they arrived. The kid would go and he would never come back. He was disgraced.
And leave he did. Sammy had Death Wait’s employee pass deactivated and the contents of his locker—patchouli-reeking black tee-shirts and blunt eyeliner pencils—sent by last-class mail to his house. He cut off Death Waits’s benefits. He had the deadwood rides shuttered and commenced their destruction, handing over any piece recognizable as coming from a ride to the company’s auction department to list online. Anything to add black to his bottom line.
But his cheek throbbed where Death had laid into him, and he’d lost his fire for the new project. Were fatkins a decent-sized market segment? He should have commissioned research on it. But he’d needed to get a plan in the can in time to mollify the executive committee. Plus he knew what his eyes told him every day: the park was full of fatkins, and always had been.
The ghost of Death Waits was everywhere. Sammy had to figure out for himself whom to fire, and how to do it. He didn’t really know any of the goth kids that worked the rides these days. Death Waits had hired and led them. There were lots of crying fits and threats, and the kids he didn’t fire acted like they were next, and if it hadn’t been for the need to keep revenue flowing, Sammy would have canned all of them.
Then he caught wind of what they were all doing with their severance pay: traveling south to Hollywood and riding that goddamned frankenride in the dead Wal-Mart, trying to turn it into goth paradise. Judging from the message-boards he surfed, the whole thing had been Death Waits’s idea. Goddamn it.
It was Boston all over again. He’d pulled the plug and the machine kept on moving. The hoardings went up and the rides came down, but all his former employees and their weird eyeliner pervert pals all went somewhere else and partied on just the same. His attendance numbers were way down, and the photobloggers posting shots of black clouds of goths at the frankenride made it clear where they’d all gone.
Fine, he thought, fine. Let’s go have a look.
The guy with the funny eyebrow made him immediately, but didn’t seem to be suspicious. Maybe they never figured out what he’d done in Boston. The goth kids were busy in the market stalls or hanging around smoking clove and patchouli hookahs and they ignored him as a square and beneath their notice.
The ride had changed a great deal since his last fated visit. He’d heard about The Story, of course—the dark-ride press had reported on it in an editorial that week. But now The Story—which, as he could perceive it, was an orderly progression of what seemed to be someone’s life unfolding from childhood naivete to adolescent exuberance to adult cynicism to a nostalgic, elderly delight—was augmented by familiar accoutrements.
There was a robot zombie-head from one of the rides he’d torn down yesterday. And here was half the sign from the coffin coaster. A bat-wing bush from the hedge-maze. The little bastards had stolen the deconstructed ride-debris and brought it here.
By the time he got off the ride, he was grinning ferociously. By tomorrow there’d be copies of all that trademarked ride-stuff rolling off the printers in ten cities around the United States. That was a major bit of illegal activity, and he knew where he could find some hungry attack-lawyers who’d love to argue about it. He jumped on the ride again and got his camera configured for low-light shooting.