Matt Vadnais




Prologues and Stars: [1] [2]

Ghostboy Dies in Tragic Mishap: [3] [4] [5]

Interzone: [6] [7] [8]



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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," he said.
      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 before Burroughs.
      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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