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Chapter 3: Happy Endings

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

– 1 –

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

Turtle-people tie Betty to the stake. They burn her.

Melanie sifts through the ashes afterwards. She cries. Then she grows up. She learns to hack Furbies. She learns the Konami Thunder Dance. She attends a University and majors in pre-law and computer science.

She hates the world.

– 2 –

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

Tom tries to bring a dead otter back to life.

Result: failure!

“Why is this dead otter so unresponsive?” he demands, waving it in the face of his homeroom teacher.

After that he does not even have a dead otter any more.

He is head boy of the House of Dreams at the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth. He commands a miraculous hat. But he can’t just make happy endings by wishing them. He can’t make the world a happy and glorious place.

He enacts detention fitfully.

He seethes against the confines of his existence.

You can’t just make the world better through science —

“Or — can I?” asks the scientist, Tom.

– 3 –

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

“Experiment 39,” says Tom. “Artificial happy endings.”

– 4 –

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

In those days gods walked among us courtesy of Konami Corporation.

One of them stood right there —

Right over there, in that blasted pit that not even the repavers can heal.

It happened like this.

There’s a cat curled up on old Mrs. Parson’s porch.

There’re crows croaking raucously on a nearby power line.

Melanie Cook walks up from the west. She doesn’t look around. She finds a square of sidewalk and she sets up her Konami Thunder Dance pad.

The crows go silent as death.

She plugs her pad into a PlayStation 6 and an uninterruptible power supply. She kicks off her shoes. She steps up onto the pad.

The cat uncurls. It stretches. It lopes away.

There should be someone else.

The world hurts that there’s no one else. It’s not supposed to happen — dancing the Konami Thunder Dance alone. But it’s way too dangerous, what Melanie plans to do.

So there’s no one else.

There’s just an echo — through time, maybe; through the looking glass, maybe; something come crawling up out of the depths of Melanie’s mind.

A distortion. A shimmer in the air. A shadow.

It walks down the road. It wobbles. It sets up something that isn’t a dance pad. It does something that isn’t plugging it in.

And smugly, because it is permitted under the poorly-translated rules of the American localization of the Konami Thunder Dance, it rotates its not-head on the top of its not-neck and it looks her full upon in the eyes.

She shudders at what she sees then. For a long moment, she loses her groove entirely.

That’s when it presses its power button with its toe.

Like God had allegedly done in that sacred vision that inspired Hiro Matsuda to make Konami Thunder Dance, it presses the power button; for both Melanie and the thing that will dance against her, the Symbols of the game begin to flow.

There’s no turning back now!

Melanie shudders. She attempts to shake off the weird that has fallen upon her. She recovers a bit of her composure, moves with a frantic haste, and starts wiring a hacked Furby into the open console of her PlayStation 6.

The Konami Thunder Dance pad divides into eight regions of twenty-one keys. Eight-key sequences, properly timed, combine to form a Symbol. Even allowing for a certain redundancy — most of the sequences have four to seven redundant versions — there are more Symbols available than even the best Dancer could possibly learn in their lifetime; more than they could ever dance, even by accident; more, to be honest, than they could ever even conceptualize.

She is reaching, nevertheless, for something more.

She is pushing the frontiers of Konami Thunder Dance science — well, practice — and if her work succeeds, if she can push it through, then she will Dance the impossible. A ten-step Symbol, maybe. Maybe even a twelve-step. Maybe — and this is her darkest and most twisted dream — sixteen.

Sixteen, she is certain, and she could recover the world; make it over in her image;

Take all that is shadowed, dark, and suffering; bring it to its crescendo; and then end it there, crash it there, and tumble all the horror and folly down.

Take all that is shadowed, dark, and suffering; redeem or end it; make it bright.

In the meantime, as she wires, she is missing the steps of the dance; her score is plummeting; and the shadow, the film in the air, the strange horror that regards her, dances HATE.

Its hate is bubbling in her. It is ripping through her.

Her joints are melting into glass spheres; they are the holders of candles, there is fire in them. This is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but she will not die of it. She grins ghastly at the shadow that is opposing her. She looks both ways before crossing streets. She eats her vegetables. She always wears her seat belt when she’s in the car.

A girl like that —

She can survive two and a half minutes with candle-joints, and she’ll only need two minutes fifteen.

It’s not enough to kill her.

If she hasn’t died, in fact, she is living yet.

The shadow dances BLOOD at her.



These it dances, of course, to Daikenkai, while she fails Time after Time.

If she had a dance meter, it would be red by now. If she’d had stars, they would have dimmed to gray. She is dying, in the sense that she is playing Konami Thunder Dance without a safety, and her joints are full of fire, and she will die within seconds when she fails out.

She is dying; but she is also winning, because the last connection is suddenly in place.

And suddenly the world is still and waiting. Even the sliding dance arrows of the song seem to hold their breath. Suddenly her opponent is not dancing; the heat shimmer that is facing her is not moving but simply regarding her, watching, waiting, and Melanie takes a step.

And another.

And another two.


Her Furby’s eyes burn with an alien malice. This is why you oughtn’t hack Furbies. There’s data thick and heavy in the air.

Nine-ten. Eleven.

She dances the twelfth step; she can take it no further. Further than that she cannot go.

With a snap, the world resumes its motion. It shakes, like an image on a pane of glass that is wobbling; like a shaman’s drum, struck by a shaman’s stick.

Her enemy dissolves; is revealed as nothing.

Her joints clean, and her body cools, and her score inflates.

She dances the symbol ITSERBANI, that has never been seen before; has never been known before; it is a concept new and never previously experienced in all the world.

It does not satisfy her.

She dances another: this one SCITTERFISCE.

These, and others, there, until at last the thing that lets her dance the Thunder Dance gives out inside her; until it is gone from her, burnt out within her, and she is sagging, weeping, and the road where she’d been dancing is nothing more than a blasted pit.

If she’d managed fourteen!

If she’d managed fourteen! If she’d only managed sixteen!

But the Furby was not designed for interfacing with a PlayStation, nor with Heaven. The Furby was not enough for it; the PlayStation 6 was not, I think, enough for it; and in the end, well, neither was she.

And the Symbol she dreamed of, the perfect Symbol, the Symbol


It never got actually danced.

– 5 –

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

Tom dissolves his room down to the primordial chaos. He scatters the work of Hans, who’d stomped the world down to sense.

And more than just Hans’, too.

He rips back the work of all of them, really — all who have ever taken up the stew of ideals, ideas, sense-impressions, and concepts around them and attempted to hammer them down to the shape of sense.

Under the force of his will and his all-black eyes he unrolls it all to emptiness.

There is only a drumming nothingness, a door and a window, and Tom.

He stands there before the chaos. He reaches upwards towards Heaven. He gestures, with his marvelous hope-congealing gauntlet, to draw down the fire of the gods — well, the red energy of hope and happy endings — from the notional upwards into the here.

It pours through him.

He stains the chaos red with it and he burns it into order with his eyes.

The chaos stirs.

It forms a happy ending. It is glorious and everything is totally resolved. It’s amazing. It’s perfect. The end.

Tom frowns in irritation.

Tom banishes that happy ending with a sweep of his chaos-roiling attachment. He glares out millimeters to miles — he cannot say, and nor can I — at the substance of the world around.

He begins to wrestle with the chaos.

He wrestles with it — as is traditional — for six full days and six full nights.

On the first day, he desperately attempts to teach the chaos about vice and about virtue.

“This is bad,” he says.

He holds up a popsicle. He lights the stick on fire. You shouldn’t do this! There is no point!

Then he holds up a book of science.

“This, conversely,” he says, “is good.”

The chaos understands him. It projects a happy ending at him. There are no cheerily burning popsicles in this happy ending. There are no marshmallows soaked in glue. There aren’t even any painted turtles! Such follies are scattered, turned to nothing, and made as air.

Science books, on the other hand, abound.

Tom leafs through them. He clears his throat. “These are gibberish,” he says. He marks up the chaos’ equations. Can you believe how badly the chaos understands quantum electrodynamics? It’s like it’s never even met physics at all!

On the second day and night, he attempts to teach the chaos about sense.

“It is when questions have answers,” he says. “It is when the structure of those answers can be studied, and then there are answers to the new questions that then arise. Ideally, there is never a final end to this investigative process: a proper universe ought not to be entirely contained.”

There are many good reasons, explains the chaos, why there are no glue-soaked marshmallows in this happy ending. For instance —

The chaos considers.

SCIENCE! booms the painted-turtle-less chaotic world.

Tom lunches on manna. He drinks the nectar of the gods. He is exhausted and teetering but he can see his way to an ending.

The work that is left — from SCIENCE! to victory — is mind-numbingly extensive, but finite.

He is certain he can do it. He can straighten out the world.

It is not the chaos, in the end, that confounds him.

Rather, at the end of the sixth day, he realizes that he can no longer understand the difference between the chaos and himself.

He is hoarse. He has been explaining things. He is still explaining things. And the chaos is explaining things. And he can no longer tell, for any given discursion, which is which.

He finds himself vigorously arguing on behalf of wiring mothers and fathers together; putting hoods on a hibernating computer; and teaching every beetle to dance.

Not just the limber ones!

He catches himself believing that all of this is illusion, that he is not actually in a room reduced down to chaos but in a comprehensive simulation thereof — a perception, a sense- and mind-impression of chaos, a terrible Cartesian cage. What if the world around him is still sensible and the chaos is entirely contained within his mind?

He makes a hat. He crafts it, he puts it on him, it straightens him —

Or is that someone else? On someone else?

He is losing track of everything. He has explained himself too thoroughly and the chaos is too responsive. His mind and brain, by sheer informational reflex, have offloaded pieces of themselves onto the chaos around him. He is not simply losing the distinction between himself and the world: it is dying, it is going away.

“I need a barrier,” he says.

He cannot find one; or rather, he keeps erecting it in the wrong places. He entirely surrounds the gigantic melting Tom with a metal fence of dreams and portents, but when he’s finished and it’s cut off — when its thoughts no longer flow seamlessly into the world’s, and his, and vice versa — he realizes that it cannot possibly have been Tom.

He isn’t gigantic and he hardly ever, he is certain, melts.

He grasps for himself. He cannot find himself.

He looks for purpose but there are only words.

He is gasping. He is pumping great gasps in and out of his world-lungs. He is staggering and he is lost in time.

“Yay!” someone cheers him. “It’s a happy ending!”

It’s a happy ending! Red hope energy trickles in and out of his twitching, chaos-wroth mind.

He turns, and he sees the wall between life and death behind him. He can’t remember if he’s ever seen the ghost of Tom.

His skin is crawling. It crawls right off him.

He falls, he fails, he is dying —

The chaos stutters and shuts down. The world, and his dorm room, are powered back on.

He cannot parse it. He is dead. Most of him is dead. He tries to move things with his purpose. He reaches out his thousand fingers. He tries to scuttle up and down nervously on the wall.

“I told you,” says Cheryl. She kicks him. “I told you not to light up those popsicles.”

She’s unplugged his poetic engine. She’s slipped off his marvelous hope-congealing glove.

She’s bent and broken the various devices that had surfaced raw chaos into the world.

He grasps at her. He says, “Don’t you get it? You’ve killed it. You’ve killed our happy ending.”

You shouldn’t paint turtles. That’s not kosher!

He remembers, very slowly, that he is Tom.


– 6 –

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

It used to be that if you danced the Konami Thunder Dance well enough, you would be buried alive.

That got patched, eventually. They went into the high score file and changed LIVE_BURIAL to FALSE.

It doesn’t happen any more.

So Melanie doesn’t die. She doesn’t even get buried.

She just goes on.

– 7 –

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments

Tom has a faux Tom attend classes. Sometimes it’s a wave. Sometimes it’s a particle. This leaves his Lethal Professors, overall, perplexed.

Tom stares at the still, non-chaotic walls surrounding his room and his mind.

After a while Cheryl says, “It’s not your fault, you know. The world isn’t made for happy endings.”

“Not my —” he starts, outraged.

He stops.

He looks at her. He says, reluctantly, “I suppose I should thank you.”

“You were dying,” she says. “I could fold stuff. So I folded it.”

“It would have worked really well,” Tom says, “if it hadn’t meant me dying and the world probably eventually reverting into a pointless, purposeless mass of unconscious impulses.”

She gives him a thumbs-up.

“My evil adoptive uncle,” he says, “got poetic justice. I think. Is it poetic justice when a space princess assassin kills you using rock-paper-scissors?”

“If you’ve slaughtered your way through space playing hobbit-Spock-spider,” says Cheryl.

“Hm,” says Tom.

“If you just invent calculus,” she says, “I’m not so sure.”

“Calc — oh.”

Tom looks embarrassed.

“I actually just tell people that Newton was my evil adoptive uncle,” says Tom. “My real evil adoptive uncle was a dissolute milliner named Bertram with half-flesh and half-gold for a face.”

“I’d wondered,” Cheryl admits.

“I always thought that was kind of undignified,” says Tom. “So I substituted old Isaac! He’s the best.”

“I didn’t have an evil adoptive uncle,” Cheryl explains, “so I didn’t want to challenge your story.”

“You didn’t?”

“I had an aunt,” Cheryl says. She gestures vaguely, possibly indicating her aunt’s height or general direction. “But I folded her. I didn’t mean to, but I folded and she died.”

“That sucks,” says Tom. “I’m sorry.”


Then Tom frowns.

“I thought you said —”

“I choose not to fold people,” Cheryl says. “I did not really mean to imply that I could not fold people. You learn to see the possibilities for origami in anything, after a while.”

“Back when,” says Tom, “I wanted to bring him back. It was how all this started. I saw him dead, and thought — wait. How can something just end like that? I want a different ending. Come back, Bertram Gulley!”


Tom makes a dismissive gesture. It’s not important. “But if he did come back, I would just punch him in half of his face. So I don’t know. Possibly then we’d laugh. Or he’d shoot me down with a rocket. We had a kind of . . .”

Tom waves a hand.

“A thing.”

“I hear you,” says Cheryl.

“Now all I want,” says Tom, “is to make the world one thing — one bright flow of purpose. So that the dead don’t have to be dead, and Linus doesn’t have to be empty and the antichrist, and I can be glad I’m alive.”

“And to be an ophidian planet-inheritor again,” she says. “Instead of just a human.”

Tom looks away. “And that,” he admits.

“And to have everyone who ever laughed at you,” she says, “Tremble before you, and say ‘sorry.’”

“Hardly anyone ever actually laughed at me,” Tom says. “You have acquired an inaccurate impression from my occasional vigorous ranting.”

“And to —”

“Enough,” he says. He looks at her. “I am only one thing,” he says. “So I have to aim for a single ending.”

“I stole back your otter,” Cheryl informs him. She tosses it to him.

“Oh,” he says. “Thank you!”

And it lives happily ever after — the dead otter — amen.

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 03 | 0 comments