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The End of Fun
By Sean McGinty
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FUN¿-the latest in augmented reality-is fun but it’s also frustrating, glitchy, and dangerously addictive . Just when everyone else is getting on, 17-year-old Aaron O’Faolain wants off.
But first he has to complete his Application for Termination, and in order to do that he has to deal with his History-not to mention the present, including his grandfather’s suicide and a series of clues that may (or may not) lead to buried treasure. As he attempts to unravel the mystery, Aaron is sidetracked again . . . and again. Shadowed by his virtual “best friend,” Homie, Aaron struggles with love, loss, dog bites, community theater, wild horses, wildfires, and the fact (deep breath) that actual reality can sometimes surprise you.
Sean McGinty’s strikingly profound debut unearths a world that is eerily familiar, yet utterly original. Discover what it means to come to the end of fun.
Copyright © 2016 by Sean McGinty
Cover design by Matt Roeser
All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
Tara & Cedar
My continuous word of warning is that you should never be discouraged by failure, and never expect success. Then if you don’t find the treasure, you will not be too disappointed, and if you are successful, you’ll be able to stand it more gracefully.
—Edward Rowe Snow
Dear To Whom It May Concern Or Whatever,
This is Aaron O’Faolain and I’ve got some Issues. The directions say I’m supposed to briefly discuss reasons for Application for Termination of FUN®. But in order to briefly discuss one reason, first I have to explain something else, and before I get to that there’s another thing, and in order to cut through the crap and get it all straight in my head, it’s going to take a little more space than the space provided provides. Which is why I’m doing it here in the YAY!log. I hope you don’t mind.
But if you are checking this out and you do mind, please understand that I’m not here to troll or anything. I just got a little behind on my FUN®—and that’s my second issue. To even be allowed to file an Application for Termination, I have to get my YAY!s back up to +100. Which is crazy, but what can you do? So here I am. And if you feel like throwing me a YAY!, that’s awesome. Please feel free to YAY! me so hard, and I will YAY! you so hard right back, and we can live out our lives together in peace and harmony forever with eagles and rainbows amen.
OK, here’s my rundown:
|name:||already told you|
So as for History, that’s where it gets kind of complicated. A lot has happened, and it’s going to take some explaining. Before I get to the part about the werewolf pills, or the hidden treasure, or the amazing holy wonder, I should probably go back to where it all started, aka my childhood, aka what it was like to grow up in a craphole town in the middle of nowhere, aka Antello, Nevada.
At first it was OK, I guess. Lots of bike riding in the brush. Blue belly lizards. Abandoned trailers. That kind of stuff. The main bad thing that happened was when I was 10 and my mom left town to be with this guy named Hawk. Seriously, that’s what his name was. Hawk. Mom met Hawk on a dating site, and they bonded over their deep affinity for being irresponsible asswipes and therefore moved to Sacramento, California. The rest of us handled it in our own ways. Dad drank box wine, Evie wrote sad poetry, and I tried to kill myself, which first of all I do NOT endorse, and second of all *** spoiler alert *** I did not accomplish.
Pro tip: do not try to kill yourself at age 10—or any age, really—and especially not by knocking back a bottle of liquid sleep aid and then tossing yourself off the roof of a garage in the middle of a snowstorm. Which, by the way: YAY! for Doze+® SleepStrong™ liquid sleep, and a big shout-out to its gag-inducing harvest apple flavor, which may have saved my life that day, seeing as right after I chugged it, I barfed it all back up on the carpet. Instead of cleaning the mess (a fate worse than death), I decided, Why not jump off the garage?
So I climbed the crab apple tree to the roof of the garage and stood there in my jammies with the snow whipping round. And as I gazed down from those lofty heights, I knew—I mean, I just couldn’t deny it—those heights weren’t even remotely lofty enough to kill me. Still, I did in that moment exhibit perseverance and follow-through. I mean, I did jump.
But right after I jumped I had this thought—or more like a series of thoughts: What up, A-dog? Whatcha doin’? You think this is a wise decision? This is not a wise decision at all.
I swear I was out there for a good ten seconds, just floating in midair with my thoughts, cartoon-style. But then gravity kicked in and I began to fall, and as I fell I managed to make a grab for the rain gutter, which is how I sliced open my hand, and also how I got distracted from my very imminent landing. And as I very imminently hit the snowy concrete, I did detect with my ears a most terrible POP! emanating from the general vicinity of my left anklebone area.
Pro tip #2: when your sister finds you on the driveway with blood all over and a foot pointing in the wrong direction, and when she asks what happened, do NOT tell her you tried to kill yourself. If you tell her you tried to kill yourself, she’ll freak and tell your dad, and he’ll send you to some doctors, and those doctors will medicate you to within an inch of a lobotomy, and you’ll lose the next six years of your life in a slightly damp, slightly bitter lavender-flavored brain fog.
Don’t do it.
I’m telling you.
Just say you fell.
So that part sucked, and I’m going to fast-forward to my junior year of high school, aka last year, which is the year I finally made the decision to get off the pills, which I’m not necessarily recommending (check with a medical professional and all that), but for me I think it was a good decision—and then, on the other hand, quitting the pills is probably what got me expelled.
The problem was that once the fog was gone, all the feelings came back. Anger mostly. It was like, What the hell happened to the last six years? Who the hell am I anyway? What the hell am I doing wasting my life in this craphole of a town?
And I ended up having this “discussion,” I guess you could call it, with a certain teacher of mine in a public arena, i.e., classroom. His name was Mr. Danielson, and I asked him in so many words to why not self-administer a paper enema using preferably a nearby rolled-up map of North America (he was my geography teacher). That suggestion resulted in a week’s suspension, but what got me booted for permanent was later that same month, on the eve of my seventeenth birthday, when I burned down the gymnasium.
I didn’t actually burn down the gymnasium—though if you read the way they put it in the police report, you’d think I did. But I didn’t. What happened was me and my best friend, Oso, were out in the fields trying to smoke some fake weed he’d got me as a birthday present. It was supposed to be real weed, but it was fake. Once we figured that out, we were like, In our bored pursuit of cheap fun let us now play with incendiaries. We had two bottle rockets. Mine was a dud, fizzling out like the saddest candle. So Oso—this is the kind of friend he is—he offered me his.
“Make a wish, bro.”
I can’t even remember what I wished for, but here’s what I do remember: the hiss of the rocket, the silence afterwards, and then a little while after that, Oso tapping me on the shoulder.
“Hey. You see that?”
“The smoke, bro. Where the rocket landed.”
And as we stood there watching, the whole place just went up. I’m serious. One second there was this thin plume of smoke, and the next it was like the whole field was on fire. The wind came on all howling from the east and blew the flames toward the school, scorching, yes, somewhat the steps of the gymnasium—which are concrete by the way, so totally nonflammable—and, long story short, eventually attracting the attention of some police officers and a couple fire trucks and for some reason an ambulance.
Oh, and I forgot to mention: all this was recorded by three separate security cameras.
My dad was not happy. Neither was my sister, Evie. They were even less happy when they got the letter about me being expelled. I’ll skip that moment and just say that after they were done murdering me for a while, they informed me that, aside from my mandatory community service, I could not leave my room until I had selected one of two options:
1. Take and pass the GED test
I had some time to think about it and in the end decided to lobby for a third alternative:
3. Go live with Mom in Sactown and finish school there
So I applied to this year-round charter school in Sacramento, YouThrive®Academy (YAY!)…and guess what? I got in. I’m not a dummy or anything. After I was accepted, I called my mom. We hadn’t talked in months, her preference being a more hands-off parenting approach. I presented my plan like it was some prize, like I’d won a scholarship or something.
“Wonderful!” she said. “I can come visit you at the school.”
“I wouldn’t actually live at the school.”
“Where would you live?”
“Me? Oh, you wouldn’t want to do that, Aaron. This house is built on a fault line. And don’t even get me started on the heat. It’s been unbearable!”
“I don’t mind if it’s hot.”
“You say that now, but it’s just awful. When that sun hits the south end of the house, you may as well just die.”
“I could bring a fan.”
“Oh, I really don’t know, Aaron….How’s Evie, by the way? Did you know she got me a subscription to her newspaper? It comes in the mail. Tell her I read her articles every day. It sounds like she’s having fun as a reporter.”
“Yeah, she’s fine. She’s excited for me to go to Sacramento. She and Dad are really excited….”
I let it hang there like that, waiting for her to make an offer, but she never did. She never flat-out said no, either. She just kept dancing around the answer, talking about a bunch of other meaningless stuff until finally I was like, “OK, thanks. I’ll talk to you soon, then. Loveyoubye.”
But later, when I saw my dad in the hall, I was like, “Mom said yes.”
And I remember the next Tuesday just before I got on the bus, Evie pulled me aside. She put her face right in front of mine and spoke to me that way she does, all slow and enunciated like I was just learning English.
“Aaron…for the love of God…try to stay out of trouble, OK?”
But for the love of God what my sister didn’t know was I was already in trouble for lying to her about going to Mom’s. I wasn’t going to Mom’s. I was going somewhere else. Somewhere far away. I was initiating my plan of thievery and deception. And this—me getting on the bus—this was phase one: Escape from Craphole.
I figured I could make a clean break without anyone knowing anything. Mom never communicated with anyone—it would be forever before anyone had any contact. In the meantime I’d just tell Dad and Evie what they wanted to hear: that I was doing fine in school and hanging with Mom. But what I would really be doing—what I was doing—was running away to San Francisco with my tuition payment for YouThrive®Academy.
Getting the money was phase two, and it was surprisingly easy. I actually accomplished it on the bus ride to San Francisco. I logged in to my student profile on YouThrive®’s Web site and filed for a cancellation/tuition return. Where it asked for a reason, I wavered between STUDENT HAS BEEN ACCEPTED AT ANOTHER SCHOOL and STUDENT IS DECEASED, and finally selected OTHER. In the part that asked where to send the reimbursement (minus 15% processing fee), I put the routing number to my checking account.
And it worked! The next time I looked, the money was there. This was during the Currency Transition—everyone switching from the dollar to amero—and with all those extra zeros in my account, it felt like I was pretty loaded.
But I wasn’t gonna spend it—I’d justified the theft by telling myself that I wouldn’t spend it, or not much of it anyway—and whatever I did spend I’d make back by panhandling, i.e., phase three of my plan: profit. I’d seen this movie once about some bratty street kids panhandling in San Francisco, and it looked like a cool way to pass the time, but as I stepped out of the BART station on Market Street, I found myself facing a grim reality.
I’d arrived in California just after the first wave of the Avis Mortem, and it was pretty awful. There were dead pigeons all over the sidewalk, plus seagulls and some other birds I couldn’t identify. Rotting corpses everywhere, everyone in surgical masks, eyes watering from the funky death clouds wafting up from the gutters. It was BAD. And where were all the cool kids? They’d mostly split. Now that currency was digital, the only thing you could panhandle for was food. That hadn’t occurred to me earlier.
So now what? I couldn’t live on the streets. I needed a place to stay. Maybe I’d just dip a little into the money.
But here’s the thing: turns out you can’t rent a closet shelf in San Francisco for under a600,000. I couldn’t even cover the first and last month’s rent. I looked around for the day and was just about ready to give up—and that’s when I learned about hivehouses. Most of the street kids had ended up there—to keep them off the streets. There were a couple openings in a hivehouse on Lombard Street, in the basement of a recommissioned McDonald’s, and they said I could have a spot, so I moved in that evening.
I’ll say this: pretty much everything you hear about hivehouses is true. There were a hundred of us down there, double-stacked like shipping crates, and aside from my sister’s occasional MathOlympics competitions, I’d never witnessed such a dense concentration of assholes. Even with all the disinfectant, the entire place still smelled like french fries, and I was hungry all the time. I mean ravenous. We weren’t allowed to bring in outside food, but I kept a stash of Zazz® bars (YAY!) in my cube, and that’s how I got my first warning.
The thing about hivehouses is this: as long as they get their money, they don’t care who you are or what you do. The warnings are a joke. They really are. You’d pretty much have to murder a resident to get evicted, and even then…they might just give you a warning.
As a result of this lax policy, residents were supposed to work out disputes on their own. What this meant IRL was everyone just ignoring everyone else, silent and alone in our individual cubes. Or sometimes not so silent. Take, for example, when Dulah moved into the cube under mine. He moved in about a week after I’d moved in, right around the time I got snitched on for having Zazz® in my cube, and although the warning didn’t mean anything, and although I knew Dulah wasn’t the snitch, I was still kind of steamed.
The reason I knew it wasn’t Dulah was because Dulah was a drug dealer, so why would he snitch on me for food? The reason I was steamed was because of the reggae. When Dulah moved in, I thought it would be cool to live above a drug dealer, but I hadn’t counted on the reggae. Supposedly the units were soundproof, but actually they weren’t, and Dulah had a pair of Blastbeats™ going on in his, and let me tell you, he played that shit CONSTANTLY.
After a while I couldn’t take it anymore. So one night, it was around one o’clock in the morning, I climbed down to his cube to see if we could work out a deal. Dulah’s portal was open, and I found him lying on his pad, staring at the ceiling. His eyes were open wide and he was waving his hands around all loopy and funny like some kind of magician or possibly the victim of a seizure.
“Hey, are you all right? Dulah?” I gave him a little shake. “Dulah!”
He touched something in the air and sat up blinking like he was coming out of a trance.
“WHAT UP, NEIGHBOR!” he shouted over the reggae. “WHEN DID YOU GET HERE?”
We went through that complicated handshake ritual that drug dealers have, and then I told him I’d just dropped by to see—
“SPEAK UP, MAN!”
“—JUST DROPPED BY TO SEE WHAT’S UP BECAUSE IT’S PRETTY LATE AND PROBABLY EVERYONE WITHIN THE BLAST RADIUS IS HAVING A HARD TIME SLEEPING ON ACCOUNT OF THE REGGAE, WHICH, DUDE, YOU HAVE TO ADMIT IS—”
And then of course the reggae stopped and the only sound was my voice shouting out those last few words.
Dulah turned to me. His eyes were all funny. “Say that again? What did you have to admit? I couldn’t hear you over the music, man.”
“Are you OK? What are you on?”
“I’m having FUN®, man.”
“Fun doing what?”
Dulah just looked at me. “The chip in my head. The lenses, man. Fully Ubiquitous Neuralnet. That’s how you say it: having FUN®.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard of FUN®, but it was the first time I really paid any attention. Dulah gave me the rundown. It had started in Korea and spread from there, and now it was coming to America, but the home version was still in beta, and they needed testers to report bugs.
“Get on while you can, neighbor. My whole world has changed. Like right now? I’m running the frogskin, man.”
“It makes everyone look like a frog. You look like a frog, man.”
“Ribbit ribbit, man. And the best part is, I’m earning FUN®. And FUN® is money.”
“Enough to pay my rent. More than enough.”
“Bug reports, bonuses, gold mining—but the most FUN® is with YAY!s.”
“What’s a yay?”
Something flickered across his big, dark pupils. “Repeat after me: Yay for FUN®!”
“Say it,” said Dulah. “Say, Yay for FUN®!”
So I said it. “Yay for fun.”
And Dulah was all, “BAM! I just earned plus 10 for getting you to say that! If I talk about it, I get even more. This shit is for real, yo. Once you’re having FUN®, you won’t ever want to stop. Everyday reality is a drag™, man.”
And although he was earning FUN® for saying the official tagline, you could tell that he actually kind of meant it, too.
So the next afternoon I went downtown to see about starting to have some FUN®.
The lensing station was located in an office on Pine Street, sort of like an optometrist’s but without the glasses. The lady handed me a pad, and I clicked through the User Agreement.
YES I AGREE
YES I AGREE
YES I AGREE
She took the pad and sent me to a little room in the back. I sat in the recliner. The machine lowered. A voice said:
CONCENTRATE ON THE DOT.
PREPARE FOR CHIP AND LENSING.
The dot moved around in a jittery circle. I felt a prick in the base of my skull. Then everything went pixelated.
And as I stumbled out of the chair and into the light, the world had changed. It was bigger now, brighter, the entire landscape webbed in a shiny digital overlay, bonuses and interfaces just waiting to be touched. I stood at the doorway with the sensory information blowing over me like sand on a windy day at the beach, and a blinking robot face took shape—two eyes, no mouth. When it spoke, a readout appeared at the bottom of my vision:
i am Homie™!
i will be your guide!
i will be your very
OK, now I would like to say YAY! for the Shit. And by “the Shit,” I mean “anything that is superior in a pleasing way.” Like for example fine wines, making out, or Psyke2® IntraCranial graphics chips. FUN® was the Shit. Especially at the beginning. I mean, people are always talking about some new shit, and sometimes it’s decent shit, and occasionally it’s good shit, but most of the time it’s just…shit.
Not this time.
This time the Shit was for real. You could see it and hear it and touch it—you could hold the Shit in your hands. You couldn’t smell it or taste it, but that was fine because it was FUN® and it was everywhere. You were swimming in it. And the other cool part was that not everyone had it yet, so it was like being part of this special club. Of the Shit.
Like, I’d be wandering around the Mission and I’d see a couple exclamation points off in the distance—exclamation points that only I could see—+1 user! +1 user!—and then I’d catch sight of the people under the points, and it’d be a couple cool kids just like me, and as we passed each other we’d YAY! out in our minds like superpsychic adventurers on the hunt for bonus fun.
So that part was cool, and it was fun, and it was FUN®. (Well, duh. It was the Shit.)
But there were some minor issues, though. Bugs and glitches or whatever. Take for example Homie™. It’s evolved over time, but back then it was just this pixelated, barely 3D robot face. Bluish on top, orangish on bottom, no mouth, no nose. Two dark, blinking circles for eyes. Pretty much the first thing my Homie™ did was catch a communication virus, the infamous allyourbase_ex, and after that you never knew when the voice recognition was gonna glitch out, or maybe it’d start talking in half-Japanese. Both of which happened when I was trying to final confirm my username.
What I wanted was the last cowboy, but when I told Homie™, it blinked and said,
i cannot understand u now!
please to speak louder!
“Confirm username: the last cowboy.”
what was that?
u r desire of original name?
is this can be for a person?
“Yes, an original name. For a person. Me. I desire to final confirm my username: the last cowboy!”
> “original boy”?
> i’m sorry!
that is a name already taken!
would u like “original boy_1”?
“THE LAST COWBOY!”
> i’m sorry!
that is a name already taken!
would u like “original boy_2”?
original boy_2 confirmed!
When I contacted an Admin he told me it was like 800 to unconfirm it, which was total crap, and in the end I was like, Forget it. I’m not paying. Anyway, it could have been worse. I could’ve been original boy_3 or 4 or whatever. Sometimes I still feel a little pang of envy toward original boy_1 and, of course, the original original boy. Really, though, the last cowboy was what I wanted. Personally, I think that would have been the Shit.
- "Reminiscent of M. T. Anderson's Feed (2002)-with a touch of John Green's Paper Towns (2008)-this is wildly funny, bittersweet, and wholly original..."—Booklist (starred review)
- On Sale
- Apr 4, 2016
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers