Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

Categories Navigation Menu

– 3 –

– 3 –

It was seven years before that summer, back when the world still seemed like it might have hope; although it’s still happening, you understand, it’s always happening, it’s always been happening and it always will happen, I think, because that’s just the way it is.

It goes like this.

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

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

Margerie walks up from the south. 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 5 and an uninterruptible power supply. She kicks off her shoes. She steps up onto the pad.

The cat uncurls. It stretches. It lopes away.

Now old Kalov comes clicking down the road from the north. He’s got his game under one arm. He’s using the other hand to hold his cane.

He sets up his dance pad.

He plugs it in, just like Margerie’s.

He steps on. And smugly, because it’s allowed in the University’s Konami Thunder Dance Club rules, he rests his cane tip beside his feet on the dance pad.

“Kalov,” says Margerie. “Don’t be stupid. You can’t beat me.”

Kalov doesn’t crack a smile.

“Maggie,” he says, “It’s the decision of the Konami Thunder Dance club that we’re going to upgrade to the new version. It’s a good version. It’s a better version. It has improved spiritual harmony. It has contextual help menus. It has over 181 new songs.”

“But it’s dishonest,” says Margerie.

“You’re a good dancer,” Kalov says. “Don’t ruin your life.”

The air is as clear and still as glass. The sun isn’t moving.

That’s the way it is with Konami Thunder Dance. They could stand there all day, if you’ll pardon some linguistic ambiguity, and the sun wouldn’t move one inch.

But Margerie just shakes her head.

She doesn’t let it sit like that. She moves her foot to the side, just sweeps it across what Konami calls the “keyboard of the feet,” and she’s hit the Symbol for storms.

There’s lightning in the sky.

And Margerie says, “It ain’t the true thing any longer if we do this. It isn’t the Konami Thunder Dance, if we do this, given to us by God. It’s just a — pathetic corporate sell-out.”

“You’re too inflexible,” Kalov complains.

“Konami doesn’t care about us,” she says. “The original team’s all gone on to work for Round Square. They’re just squeezing a few more Euros from the newbs.”

It’s raining.

“Lois Lethal’s dead, Maggie,” Kalov says. “The Kid is dead. They were buried alive.”

Scissors had fallen from the sky one day, sextillions of them in a swarm from space, all wicked metal and great scissors-mind and twin gleaming blades on every pair. Scissors had fallen, strange though that may have been, and in that rain the dancers had died. Dozens of them — dozens of the best of them: not cut, they were immune to cutting, they couldn’t be cut while the power to their PlayStation was on, but they’d drowned, they’d died, they’d been buried in the piles of metal that fell from space. And if it had stopped there, people would’ve just blamed the scissors, but it hadn’t.

Like he’d said.

A landslide took the Konami Kid. Lois Lethal went down a well. And even Ren the Bing —

“Do you want to die?” he asks her, raw.

Because that’s how it is, when you dance the Thunder Dance.

That’s the genuine thing.

If you’re good enough, if you’re only good enough, or maybe it’s actually only if you’re just too good, then one day the Earth will open up and swallow you. Or you’ll get trapped in a mine cave-in. Or something else. Something else will happen and it will bury you alive —

That is the Konami Thunder Dance, as it was given to the world by God; that is how it is, or how it was, anyway, at least.

— until the patch.

“You think you can just do that?” Margerie says. “You think you can just go into the high scores coding and set LIVE_BURIAL to FALSE and change the plans God made for this mortal world? Just how arrogant are you, Kalov? Who the Hell do you think you are?”

He glares at her.

“I’m the faculty advisor for the thunder dance club,” he says, and he clicks his cane, and the Earth groans and the sun goes black.

“I was breakdancing in Los Angeles when you were in diapers,” he says. His voice is cold and even. “I was playing Dance Dance Revolution when you were just a chit. I broke X2 and In the Groove, Maggie; I danced too well for them. And I was dancing the thunder dance, I was shaping the world with its designs, even before the scissors fell. God’s plans, Maggie? You think I care about God’s plans, Maggie? He can ask me mine.

It’s pretty cool. He thinks. He thinks it sounds pretty cool.

But Margerie just smirks.

“Don’t see you getting buried, sir, for all that boasting of yours,” she says. “Maybe God just doesn’t know that you’re alive.”

He’s going to say something more. He knows he is. He feels the word-wroth coming to him.

He’s going to think of just the perfect thing to say any second now.

But he doesn’t get the chance.

She is like God; she does like God; she presses the power button with her toe.

“There’s no turning back now,” warns the voice of the machine.

And for Margerie and Kalov alike the patterns of the Konami Thunder Dance begin to flow.

There are one hundred and sixty-eight distinct “keys” on the Konami Thunder Dance pad, divided into eight regions. Eight-key sequences, properly timed, combine to form a Symbol. Most of these sequences have four to seven redundant versions, leaving approximately 1.25 x 10^17 combinations. Each Symbol generates a unique effect; each Symbol hacks the world; but with 10^17 of them, and more, most of the possibilities of the game remain undiscovered even by the greatest masters.

Each Symbol of the Thunder Dance is one thing, exactly, for all its many parts; one thing, and one thing only, save, perhaps, for the cheat code Dynamite.

The greatest thunder dancers can make manna to feed the starving. They can bring peace to the harrowed heart.

Theirs is the power to warp the world.

They dance to Freezepop and Lauper, then; she dances Flight and he dances Time; and it is for this reason, it must have been for this reason, that Ipswich has always hung (and will always hang) above the Earth.

And to the theme from Goldeneye she dances of duality and he dances of faces.

And this is the last of the truly great thunder dances, I think, save, perhaps, for one. The sea writhes with their dancing and burning waves crash down upon the shore. They roust out wolves to chase the sun and moon. The sky rains blood and flowers down upon them and they crack it open to show the hidden light that shines beyond.

But she is slowing.

She does not understand it. Not at first. She is slowing. Her thoughts are clouding. She kicks the Symbol for Clarity, even though it costs her points — it’s not a big feature of Yatta!, to which she is dancing — but it does her no good.

She is better than he is, but she is slowing down. It is like there is gelatin around her. It is like it is setting around her, closing in around her legs —

And finally she understands.

She curses him. She howls curses at him, she blasts at him with honeyed lightning and she calls up flames, she doesn’t care any longer that the Symbols don’t fit the song she’s dancing to, she only tries to kill, and kill, and kill, and finally, she slumps.


He’s downloading it.

Onto her PlayStation — he’s downloading it. Its network light is on, on his and hers. He’s downloading the patch right onto her machine.

She misses one step. Then another. Finally, she’s just sitting there, watching the patterns and Symbols float by her until she fails out of the dance.

“Damn you,” she says. “Damn you.”

She powers down her machine.

“Damn you.”

“That’s settled, then,” he says. “But it’s all right, you know. It’s good. And you won’t have to die.”

She sits there. She is crying. She is broken.

He tries to comfort her. She drives him away. She hits him. She screams at him. He draws back.

“You’ll understand,” he says. “Once you’ve played the new one. Once you’ve tried it out.”

But she doesn’t.

She doesn’t turn on her PlayStation 5, or any other PlayStation, again.

It is an age of gods; they walk among us, courtesy of the Konami Corporation.

But they are smaller, now.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *