Count zero interrupt: “On receiving an interrupt, decrement the counter to zero.”
(Old programming language)
. . .
It was such an easy thing, death. He saw that now: It just happened. You screwed up by a fraction and there it was, something chill and odorless, ballooning out from the four stupid corners of the room, your mother’s Barrytown living room.
Shit, he thought, Two-a-Day’ll laugh his ass off, first time out and I pull a wilson.
The only sound in the room was the faint steady burr of his teeth vibrating, supersonic palsy as the feedback ate into his nervous system. He watched his frozen hand as it trembled delicately, centimeters from the red plastic stud that could break the connection that was killing him
He’d come home and gotten right down to it, slotted the icebreaker he’d rented from Two-a-Day and jacked in, punching for the base he’d chosen as his first live target. Figured that was the way to do it; you wanna do it, then do it. He’d only had the little Ono-Sendai deck for a month, but he already knew he wanted to be more than just some Barrytown hotdogger. Bobby Newmark, aka Count Zero, but it was already over. Shows never ended this way, not right at the beginning. In a show, the cowboy hero’s girl or maybe his partner would run in, slap the trodes off, hit that little red ore stud. So you’d make it, make it through.
But Bobby was alone now, his autonomic nervous system overridden by the defenses of a database three thousand kilometers from Barrytown, and he knew it. There was some magic chemistry in that impending darkness, something that let him glimpse the infinite desirability of that room, with its carpet-colored carpet and curtain-colored curtains, its dingy foam sofa-suite, the angular chrome frame supporting the components of a six-year-old Hitachi entertainment module.
He’d carefully closed those curtains in preparation for his run, but now, somehow, he seemed to see out anyway, where the condos of Barrytown crested back in their concrete wave to break against the darker towers of the Projects. That condo wave bristled with a fine insect fur of antennas and chickenwired dishes, strung with lines of drying clothes. His mother liked to bitch about that; she had a dryer. He remembered her knuckles white on the imitation bronze of the balcony railing, dry wrinkles where her wrist was bent. He remembered a dead boy carried out of Big Playground on an alloy stretcher, bundled in plastic the same color as a cop car. Fell and hit his head. Fell. Head. Wilson.
His heart stopped. It seemed to him that it fell sideways, kicked like an animal in a cartoon.
Sixteenth second of Bobby Newmark’s death. His hotdogger’s death.
And something leaned in, vastness unutterable, from beyond the most distant edge of anything he’d ever known or imagined, and touched him.
::: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHY ARE THEY DOING THAT TO YOU?
Girlvoice, brownhair, dark eyes…
: KILLING ME KILLING ME GET IT OFF GET IT OFF
Darkeyes, desertstar, tanshirt, girlhair…
::: BUT IT’S A TRICK, SEE? YOU ONLY THINK IT’S GOT YOU. LOOK. NOW I FIT HERE AND YOU AREN’T CARRYING THE LOOP.
And his heart rolled right over, on its back, and kicked his lunch up with its red cartoon legs, galvanic frog-leg spasm hurling him from the chair and tearing the trodes from his forehead. His bladder let go when his head clipped the corner of the Hitachi, and someone was saying fuck fuck fuck into the dust smell of carpet. Girlvoice gone, no desertstar, flash impression of cool wind and waterworn stone…
Then his head exploded. He saw it very clearly, from somewhere far away. Like a phosphorus grenade.