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Chapter no 24

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Both Sides was completed a week before Sadie’s twenty-fifth birthday. Marx threw a party at the office to celebrate both occasions. The game had taken twenty-two months and like Ichigo, would come out in time for the holidays.

At the beginning of the night, Zoe had given Sadie a dose of Ecstasy. “This is a great night,” Zoe said. “I want to celebrate with my best friends.” Sadie usually didn’t do anything but pot, but she was in such a good mood and momentarily free from responsibility, so she took it.

The X made Sadie less inhibited to where she could enjoy the accomplishment of finishing Both Sides. She felt that she’d never made a better game. With Both Sides, as opposed to Ichigo, she felt that she had been able to push the boundaries, technically and narratively. And what was the point of making games if you weren’t going to do that? She felt she’d reached a point where her ambitions and abilities were finally aligned. She was exhausted, as she always was after having made a game, but she had never felt more at peace with her own efforts. She felt in love with everyone in attendance at the party. She felt in love with Marx, who had been such a calming and wise presence at every step, and Zoe, who had written a moving and dramatic score for the game. She felt in love with her whole team of designers and coders. She felt in love with California. She forgave Dov and she felt less resentful of Sam.

Sam’s work on the game had exceeded her expectations. When she’d conceived of the game, she had thought the Mapletown story would be a clean frame on which the star attraction, Myre Landing, was mounted. Sam had surprised her. There was real depth to his side, and she had found herself in tears when she played Sam’s side together with her side for the first time. As she played, she realized that the thing that gave the fantasy world of Myre Landing emotional resonance was Mapletown. The last few

months of the game had passed in such a blur that Sadie hadn’t had a chance to tell Sam how much she had liked his work. She was planning to take him aside tonight.

Though she was still resentful of him, they had fought less on Both Sides than they had on either of the Ichigos. When disagreements arose, he conceded quickly, and Sadie had concluded that Sam was disengaged. He could not bother to come to the office some days; he could not bother to fight. When Sadie saw the work he had done on Mapletown, she realized that he had more than conceded. Somehow, Sam was able to bend to her criticism in a way that he had never been able to before. There was a particular scene that they had briefly fought over. It was the penultimate scene on Mapletown, in which Alice Ma, who is as sick as she has ever been, discovers that Myre Landing is a game that she has been playing the whole time. Sam, at first, had argued that it would be better if Myre Landing wasn’t a game, but a book or a story that Alice Ma had been writing. He felt that it was too meta, too clever, if Myre Landing was a game, and that it would cause an unnecessary ludic dissonance in the gamer. But Sadie had held her ground, and Sam had conceded. He had rewritten the penultimate scene so that when we finally see Alice playing Myre Landing on her laptop (for the first time, Myre Landing is rendered as a screen within a screen), Alice loses the game. She dies in battle, as Rose the Mighty. The restart prompt of Myre Landing comes up: Ready for a new tomorrow, Paladin? Alice returns to the save point, and the second time she plays, she dies again. The restart prompt of Myre Landing comes up for the second time: Ready for a new tomorrow, Paladin? Alice returns to the save point, and she tries one more time. This time, she wins, and the final scene of the game is launched. It was Sam’s idea that Alice should die twice in the game within a game before she could win the game properly. It was the inversion of the opening scene of Mapletown, in which moving forward meant giving up, and Sadie thought it was brilliant.

In a couple of weeks, she would be heading out on the road to promote Both Sides. Sam had a new girlfriend—some girl from high school—and a dog—and he had said he didn’t want to travel for a while. Sadie would be

taking the lead for the interviews and the cons this time. She wanted to make things right with Sam before she headed out.

Sadie was still looking for Sam when Zoe asked Sadie and Marx to come up to the roof to look at the late September stars, which she promised were “spectacular, truth-telling stars.”

On the roof, the view was as distant as ever, but the stars were clear. Zoe pointed up at the sky. “That one’s called Capricornus,” Zoe said. “And that’s Indus. And that’s Cygnus the swan.”

“How can you tell?” Sadie asked. “To me, constellations never look like what they’re supposed to be.”

“Honestly, I don’t know which is which. I just know what’s supposed to be up there in September,” Zoe admitted.

“Look up there!” Marx said, pointing his right arm and putting his other arm around Zoe’s shoulders. “It’s Smurfus! You can tell by the bluish tinge.”

“And that’s Gandalfus,” Sadie said, joining in. “The three stars represent the wizard’s hat.”

“And there’s Frodus and Bilbus Bagginsus,” Marx said. “And Smeagolous looks like a ring,” Sadie said.

“The magical ring of Smeagolous.”

“You guys are being mean,” Zoe said, but she was smiling.

“No, this is a great game. That’s Cobainus. The eleven stars of Cobainus form a fuzzy grandma sweater,” Marx said.

“And that’s Donkey Kongus,” Sadie said.

“How lucky we are to see the ethereal necktie of the sky!” Marx said. “But I think technically, it’s known as Donkus Kongus.”

Donkus Kongus. I always mess that up,” Sadie said. “I didn’t want to correct you,” Marx said.

“No, it’s good you should correct me when I’m wrong,” Sadie said.

Without warning, Zoe kissed Sadie on the mouth. “Is this okay?” she asked. Zoe ran her fingers through Sadie’s hair.

Sadie looked at Marx. “Is it okay with you?”

Marx nodded, and Zoe said, “We don’t believe in ownership.” Zoe kissed Sadie again. “Your lips are so soft. Marx you have to feel Sadie’s lips.”

Marx shook his head. “I’ll watch,” he said, with a sly grin.

“My favorite two people on the planet,” Zoe said. “I’m so in love with both of you right now.”

Zoe pulled Marx to her, and she held each of her friends’ heads in her hands, and then she pushed the two of them together like dolls, and then she made the dolls kiss. The kiss lasted seven seconds, though it seemed longer to Sadie. Marx tasted like mint and the fruity Hefeweizen beer he’d been drinking and himself. She had expected kissing Marx to be strange, but it felt entirely natural, as if they kissed all the time. Sadie pulled back first, and Marx was laughing in his gentle way and covering his mouth with his elegant, long fingers.

“Was that weird?” Marx said.

“It was,” Sadie said. “But we’re on drugs so it doesn’t count.” (Marx hadn’t been.) “It felt like kissing my brother.” (Sadie didn’t have a brother, just Alice, and it did not feel like kissing a sibling.)

“We won’t even remember it in the morning,” Marx said. (They did.) Marx sighed, as if resigning himself to something. “I love you, Sadie,” Marx said.

“I love you,” Sadie said. She turned to Zoe. “We love you, Zoe.”

“You guys, I’m so in love with both of you right now,” Zoe said. She put her arms around them. “I wanted to know what that would look like and now I do.” She nodded to herself. Her eyes looked enormous and moist, and then, Zoe started to cry.

“No, Zoe!” Sadie said. She took Zoe in her arms. “You’re not supposed to cry on X,” Sadie said.

“Happy tears,” Zoe said.

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