It starts with a headache.
It’s the first day of depositions. Eduardo sits across from him, hair slicked back and eyes cold and dark, and spells out his name; E-D-U-A-R-D-O S-A
Mark is flanked by his lawyers; the stenographer sits at the head of the table. He is concentrating on tuning out Eduardo’s voice, hands typing out imaginary code against the surface of the polished table, when his headache starts.
There’s a buzzing in his skull, settling into his brain and he can almost feel it, electricity jumping around, making him shake his head to clear it. Eduardo is talking about the AEPi party, and he pauses, affronted, so Mark stares at him.
He didn’t shake his head at Eduardo, even though what Eduardo’s saying is not what happened. He’s not shaking his head at Eduardo, even though this entire lawsuit is bullshit.
(Chris had taken Mark aside and said, Mark, you’re not the idiot 19-year-old you were. You understand why Eduardo is doing this, right?
And Mark had said no, and I don’t care, it’s my company, he doesn’t have any claims to it.
Chris’s eyes had gotten sad and his mouth had tightened into a small, hard line, and he had walked away.
Mark overheard him remarking to Dustin that maybe he doesn’t want to understand, but he hadn’t heard Dustin’s response.
It’s not like he cares. This is a waste of his time.)
The only good thing about this lawsuit is that he gets to see Eduardo again, gets to see how much he’s changed – still tan and lean, but his hair is longer, slicked back, and his eyes are colder and he acts differently. Mark can’t quite put his finger on it, has never been good at – has never cared about – cataloguing people’s reactions and understanding them. He knows that Eduardo is different, and doesn’t try to understand why.
But Mark’s different too – isn’t that what Chris had tried to tell him? – and he dismisses it, because Eduardo is suing him for six hundred million dollars and Mark has other things to worry about.
By lunch, Mark’s sweating and gripping the table. Everyone keeps shooting him weird looks, which he tries to ignore – he wonders, distantly, if this is caffeine withdrawal or something – but he doesn’t argue when a pretty brunette girl presses some Advil into his hands.
He looks up when he swallows them and finds Eduardo watching him, lips pressed together and eyes very dark, and Mark wonders what that look means.
He decides he doesn’t care.
When Gretchen prompts Eduardo about the diversity thing, Mark’s head hurts so much he thinks he’s going to throw up from it. But he’s not stupid, he knows what’s going on; Gretchen asks Eduardo – like she actually cares – why he thinks Mark said it probably was a diversity thing. Sy interjects and Mark can’t believe this is happening, this is so stupid, his head hurts so fucking much and he doesn’t understand why this is necessary.
Gretchen says: “Sy, if you’ll let me continue with my line of questioning—”
And Sy says: “What are you suggesting?”
So Mark grits out, clutching the table as a fresh wave of pain rolls through his head: “They’re suggesting I was jealous of Eduardo for getting punched by the Phoenix and began a plan to screw him out of a company I hadn’t even invented yet.” He tries to sink as much disdain into that as he can, tries to glare at Gretchen even though his vision is blurring.
Gretchen doesn’t even blink. “Were you?”
Eduardo is watching this very closely, Mark notices – why is he noticing this? – and Sy says, “Gretchen –” In a way that means don’t answer that, but Mark can’t contain himself.
“Jealous of Eduardo?”
“Stop typing, we’re off the record,” Sy says and the stenographer stops. Mark sees her flex her wrist out of the corner of his eye, but he’s staring intently at Gretchen even as lights burst in front of his eyes.
He hears the pretty brunette girl say: “Mark, you don’t look so good” but he ignores her; the thought that he screwed Eduardo out of Facebook because he was jealous is so unacceptable, so grossly inaccurate, that he has to make this clear to her.
“Ma’am, I know you’ve done your homework and so you know that money isn’t a big
part of my life, but at the moment I could buy Mount Auburn Street, take the Phoenix Club and turn it into my ping pong room.”
His last coherent thought is that he doesn’t even play ping pong.
When he wakes up, light is shining on his closed eyelids and Mark can hear voices.
“Someone call an ambulance,” someone says, and fingers come to rub Mark’s head gently, dulling the ache and the roaring within his skull.
“Wardo,” he mutters, and is rewarded with a quiet noise of surprise.
He opens his eyes.
He’s looking up into the sun, into something that is pulsing and shining, wavering between a deep orange gold and a shiny white-yellow; it makes him groan and shut his eyes again, pressing the palms of his hands into them.
He’s never understood this urge, to rub and press at something that hurts – how will that help – but he obeys, curling into himself, not really caring where he is or who is looking at him. A hand sweeps down his spine, moves up to cradle the base of his skull and he flinches away.
“Mark,” Eduardo’s voice says. “Mark, can you hear me?”
“We have to call 911,” Eduardo says, urgently, and Mark shudders, because the light is growing brighter and he can see the map of veins on his eyelids, thinks he can see everything clearly despite closing his eyes. “What if he’s having an aneurysm?”
“Has he ever had headaches like this before?” Sy asks. Mark can hear someone – the girl that gave him Advil– talking on the phone, sounding only a little harried.
“No,” Eduardo says. “I mean, he’s had migraines, but never like this.”
“Please stop talking,” Mark says finally, and he reaches out, shuddering, trying to find something to grip, to hold onto.
He ends up clinging to someone’s knee – Eduardo’s, he thinks – and then he hears Eduardo muttering worriedly to himself in Portuguese.
Irritated, Mark drags his eyes open – can’t Eduardo shut up? – but it’s bright still, the lights pulsing, and then he turns his head and he can see Eduardo.
It’s like his skin is on fire, like he’s lit from within. Mark has watched candles flicker in frosted glass lanterns and this is the same affect but a hundred times brighter, a hundred times worse– and then the light settles on a dull orange-gold, pulsing like a heartbeat.
“Why are you glowing?” his mouth is dry and he swallows, wants to push himself away, but Eduardo is half cradling Mark’s head in his lap.
At his question, Eduardo’s lips twist up and his brow furrows, and the light grows a little brighter, a little yellower.
“Mark, what are you talking about?” he sounds confused, worried even; Mark scowls.
“You’re glowing. Like…like you’re on fire, or something.”
Eduardo is panicking; his hands flutter by his sides ad he bites his lip, and Mark thinks this is a hallucination, this is from the migraine.
He’s repeating that over and over to himself when he passes out again.
He has vague memories of what happened next – the needle they stuck into his vein like an apology, the cool pressure of a cloth on his head, the quiet beeping of the monitors.
There’s snatches of conversation too, and later he’ll identify the voices, but for now he hears stuff like He said Eduardo was glowing and Has this ever happened before and Mark if you didn’t want to be deposed you could have just settled you didn’t have to almost have an aneurysm.
He blames the drugs for what he thinks – I thought hell had brimstone and is this what happens when you betray your best friend and I don’t believe in God I think that means he can’t punish me and Eduardo looks stupid with gelled back hair.
But mostly, he sleeps. They’ve put a mask over his eyes and everything is dark and cool, and he relaxes into unconsciousness like he never has. Before, sleep was something that would make him code faster or would make everyone leave him alone. Now, sleep is a way to escape.
Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t do well in a reality that makes no sense. At least dreams aren’t supposed to make sense.
But he doesn’t sleep, he remembers – it’s like he’s dreaming in sepia, but brighter, because everything is yellow and everyone is glowing, light wrapped around them or concentrated in parts of their bodies or hovering and filling their heads and hearts. He doesn’t try to make sense of it, tries to shake the dreams off and go back to sleep, but he keeps returning to one scene.
What did you mean, get left behind? Eduardo asks and his head is full of dull gold, just as his eyes are dull and sad and black.
He doesn’t mention the light to the doctors, tells them that he feels fine. They tell him that it was probably a tension headache and that yoga or chiropractic will do him so good, and then they release him into Chris and Dustin’s waiting arms.
Both are glowing slightly and Mark squints at them.
“Mark,” Dustin says.
“You scared us,” Chris snaps out and Mark presses his lips together and shrugs – I didn’t do it on purpose – and lets them drive him to his house.
He makes them leave, insisting he’ll be fine. Chris reminds him that depositions resume tomorrow and makes him promise not to come into the office today and Mark hums and nods and ignores them until they leave.
His house is cool, stark white with stainless steel appliances. Mark avoids the kitchen, the TV, the computer; everything that glows, that emits light.
Eduardo – Mark stumbles when he thinks that and doesn’t quite know why – used to tease Mark about being a caveman, a creature of the shadows. Mark thinks that it’s quite accurate right now; he draws the blinds in his bedroom and sits on his bed in the dark, hugging his knees and staring blankly at the opposite wall.
He’s heard the stories, of course – the claims that all of this technology and abundance and whatever the fuck else you can blame have caused…changes in humanity. There’s the woman that can speak in a dead language without having learned it and scientists can’t figure her out. There’s the man who claims he’s a Breatharian; he gets his nutrients from air. There are people who bend spoons and talk to the dead and people who claim to be ‘psychic archaeologists.’ Mark knows this because his fascination with the unknown and unexplained has always been stronger than his hatred of stupidity and things he can’t understand.
But he’s never heard of people seeing light like he sees. He’s seen pictures of it, mostly from the stained glass windows at churches, where people in robes are depicted with enormous golden halos around them, and that’s almost what he sees, but not quite.
Eduardo had been lit from within, like he had fire for blood, like light was running through his veins and powering his heart. Chris and Dustin’s light had been thinner, dimmer – and Chris’s had been the dimmest of all.
It doesn’t make sense; Mark rejects religion and decides that’s not what it is or what it means.
The problem is, he doesn’t know what it is and that scares him. His fascination with the unknown is fine from a distance; when it’s him that he doesn’t understand, when his most basic self is part of the unknown, he panics. He has no baseline, nothing to compare this to and no way to understand it, and he tries to ignore the buzzing in his skin and the tightening of his chest when he thinks this.
It feels, stupidly, like betrayal.
It’s not until the next day of the depositions that he understands.
He gets there early – Chris insists on dropping him off – and wanders into the deposition room. No one’s there but the stenographer, and she’s flexing her wrists and rubbing the flesh of her inner forearm with a grimace.
Her arm is lit from within, lines of bright white light outlining her fingers, looping around her wrist, and running up to cradle her elbow. She has her finger on one such line, rubbing it like that will help, and Mark suddenly understands.
“Do you have carpal tunnel?” he asks, and she looks up at him, shocked.
He doesn’t need an answer – he’s seen that expression and those motions before, seen programmers flex their wrist like something will pop free and the pain will stop.
“Yes,” she says finally, looking at him strangely – he realizes, belatedly, that she was there when he passed out, or whatever happened, and he nods at her and sits in his chair, drumming his hands against the tabletop and thinking.
I can see pain as light.
It doesn’t even make sense, this isn’t supposed to be possible, isn’t supposed to happen to him, but it is and it has.
He’s still thinking about this when Sy and the pretty brunette girl – Marylin, he remembers that now – walk in and sit on either side of them. Mark watches them and thinks about pain, thinks about how personal it is and how he doesn’t quite understand it, and then wonders why this happened to him.
There’s no explanation for it, which makes him twitch nervously.
Discreetly, he presses down on the pressure point between his thumb and forefinger, does it until it hurts, waits for the light to bloom around his fingers.
But it doesn’t.
It doesn’t work on me he thinks.
For some reason, that makes sense; he’s never needed help to know what he’s feeling.
When Eduardo comes in, he’s still dull gold, though it’s muted. It doesn’t hurt to look at him anymore; he just looks warm, like the sun.
Mark thinks that maybe this will be awkward, because Eduardo was cradling Mark’s head in his lap and was worried about him, but is also suing him for $600,000,000. It doesn’t make sense and he doesn’t like it; he wants to shake Eduardo until the answers fall out of his mouth.
Mark doesn’t really listen to the first part of the depositions; he wants to understand why Eduardo’s light is so different than everyone else’s.
Eduardo says I wish he’d been asleep and the light pulses brighter, even as he makes a face; Mark shakes his head again, and Eduardo glares at him.
It’s not worth it, not worth arguing with Eduardo because the depositions are Eduardo’s versions of events and Mark knows that; Sy and Chris have explained that too him. But he can’t stop himself from rejecting Eduardo’s blatant rewriting of history, because that’s not what happened and Mark thinks that if they want to know what happened they should ask an unbiased source.
He had mentioned this once and the pretty brunette girl – Marilyn, he suddenly remembers – had explained that there weren’t any unbiased sources, that no one is ever unbiased when things happen to them.
Mark thinks, absently, that maybe that’s the same with pain; it’s never the same from one person to another. Even if everyone else has experienced the same thing, it will hurt differently.
Sy brings up the chicken and Mark scowls at him, distracted from staring at Eduardo, frustrated that Sy was doing this even when Mark had told him explicitly not too.
“This isn’t happening,” Eduardo says, upset, and Mark fights the urge to sit up, because the light has turned from dull gold to bright yellow-white.
“I have here an article from The Crimson,” Sy says.
“Jesus Christ.” The light pulses even brighter and Mark thinks, absently, about the chicken and how funny it was, how It’s better to be accused of necrophilia.
“I did not torture the chicken,” Eduardo is saying. Then, suddenly, his words rush out: “I do not torture chickens! Are you crazy?”
“No and settle down please,” Sy tells him; Mark props his head up on his hand and stares at Eduardo without any pretense, watching the mixing of the light, dull gold and bright yellow white that is pulsing faster, like it hurts more.
Does he have a headache?
“Mr. Zuckerberg was cheating on his final exam?” Gretchen asks, and Eduardo looks pained.
“I’d rather not answer that, Gretchen,” he says and Mark knows that he’s pained, because the colors are so bright he blinks. Eduardo doesn’t have himself under control and Mark thinks that the depositions are ruining him.
He doesn’t quite understand why.
“Why not?” Gretchen prompts. She’s like a dog with a bone – Mark’s dad says that sometimes – and won’t leave it alone, even though Eduardo is upset, even though Eduardo is her own client.
“Because I’m not suing him for cheating on his final exam, that’s not what friends do.”
We’re not friends anymore Mark thinks – he remembers this being made this clear because he couldn’t call Eduardo by his first name, he has to call him Mr. Saverin – and grinds his teeth.
“Well you just told us he was cheating,” Gretchen says, looking smug.
Eduardo blinks, turns to stare at Mark. “Oops.” He mutters, then refocuses. He’s glowing white-yellow now, the dull orange gold almost gone, and Mark thinks he almost understands, but – “You told your lawyers that I was torturing animals?!” He demands and Mark just stares at him.
Sy cuts in. “No, he didn’t tell us about it at all. Our litigators are capable of finding a Crimson article. In fact when we raised the subject with him he defended you.”
Eduardo’s light is searing and then dull gold floods it and something flashes across his face – regret? – as Mark says, like he doesn’t care: “Oops.”
But he doesn’t understand, doesn’t really understand, until Gretchen asks Eduardo what his shares were diluted down to and Eduardo says, like he’s defeated, “.03%.”
He turns away, glowing like a sun, a mix of the two kinds of light, and then turns back to look at Mark, face working like he’s trying not to cry.
“I was your only friend.” He says. “You had one friend.”
He’s glowing – he’s shining – so brightly that Mark feels his breath stutter, his heart clamor against his ribs and it hurts, because if he sees pain then Eduardo is ablaze with it and it’s all his fault.
“I want to settle,” he announces.
Eduardo is staring at him, disbelief written all over his face – Mark doesn’t need any fancy light to read that expression – and he can hear a shocked inhale from Sy, and a small, satisfied noise from Gretchen.
He glances around, sees that Marilyn is looking at him with a look of approval, but he doesn’t care about her; he only cares about Eduardo.
“Why now?” Eduardo asks him, and there’s something ugly in his expression. “Is it because you know you won’t win?”
“No,” Mark says, honest. “I don’t care about winning.”
“Of course you don’t,” Eduardo mutters.
“I’m sorry,” Mark tells him. “I’m sorry it hurt you so badly.”
This is apparently not the right thing to say; Eduardo gapes at him, incredulous, glowing white yellow, and then gets up and leaves. You can’t slam a glass door but Eduardo tries too.
Sy and Marilyn say that they’ll produce the proper documents and have them ready by tomorrow, so Mark is sent home.
He doesn’t really know what to do or what to say; he texts Chris and Dustin and says come over because he doesn’t believe in chat speak.
It’s not really easy to say I see pain as light so he doesn’t, thinks it’s a secret that he’ll keep to himself. Instead he says “I’ve decided to settle,” and tries not to be insulted when Dustin and Chris look so surprised.
“Why?” Chris asks and Mark fidgets, uncomfortable.
“I didn’t realize… how badly I hurt Wardo,” he mumbles finally, not looking at them. “I just… I didn’t want to draw it out anymore, you know?”
The looks on Chris’s and Dustin’s faces are almost worth it. Mark doesn’t need light to see the pride there and he flushes, because he doesn’t really deserve it.