47. Your Loaded Pockets

“You got wi-fi down here?” Duke asked.

He pushed past me when I opened the portal to the underworld. The kid from Creative, Juliette, was right behind him. She had a laptop tucked under her tattooed arm.

“Probably. I don’t know.”

“Let’s set up. Juliette can show you the app. You’re going to love this, Fatman.”

I wasn’t loving much of anything right then.

Juliette followed Duke to the wine cellar. She set her laptop on the table and popped it open.

“Good signal,” she said. “In the underworld, sketchy.”

“You get service?”

“You get leaks under a strong signal. Plus we got guys, IT, what else they got to do all day but hack, tweak?”

“What about juice?”

“Buried cables, here and there. More hacking. Luckily, electricians die, too. We got power strips. But you can imagine. Supply, demand.”

“You want juice, you got to have juice, you know what I mean,” said Duke.

“Duke makes a lot happen,” Juliette said, bathed now in the glow of her laptop.

“Your landing page,” Juliette said. “Simple communication of an elemental idea. Macro. Micro. A lot going on under the radar. Take a look.” She pushed the screen toward me.

A background of storm clouds. An antique alarm clock. But none of the numbers were right. I recognized an omega. The rest of the markings were from languages I couldn’t read. The symbols weren’t properly spaced. The hands — three of them — were bent out of shape. “Know the Time” was the headline. Beneath it in italic was a subhead, “Death: It gets in the way of life.” Then a simple button: “Lift the barrier. Enter.”

“Grabs you by the collar, right? Gives you a shake.”

“This is a shake people want?”

“People don’t know what they want. They’re waiting to be told. Coke. It’s the real thing, right? What the hell did that ever mean? What was real? The fat on your gut from all those empty calories? In the back of your mind. What you’re hoping to find? You want to find that you’re part of the mob. You want to be one of a jillion people pouring Coke down your throat right this very minute. You want to feel that embrace.”

“The embrace we’re talking about,” I said, “it’s icy fingers. Death. People are going to line up to buy it?”

“That’s not what we’re selling. Our product is a full life. You’re going on a trip, say. One version, you know where you’re going, you know when you’ll arrive. So you know how much gas you need, what kind of clothes to take, how long to linger along the way. The other version, you’re on a trip to who-knows-where, it’s going to take who-knows-how-long, you don’t know what the weather will be. Everything’s up in the air, a total crap shoot. The world is uncertain. Our product is certainty.”

“You say so.”

“I know so. My big concern? Price point. We’re talking about your loaded pockets, Fatman.”

Tomorrow: The dead have time for surveys?

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