This scene takes place after some members of the digitally stored community have begun mysteriously suffering from misophonia (a nasty condition where everyday sounds like people chewing can drive one into a fight-or-flight frenzy).
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Thea so rarely seemed frightened—and this time he could not reach out and hold her.
He waited for her to finish her story, so he could provide whatever comfort his words and tone could give. But in mid-sentence, moments after she said something about misophonia and before she could tell him what it meant, the call broke off. The screen switched from Thea, biting her lip, to some sort of logo, and then a swirling pattern of color behind the offensively cheery words, “Whoops! Something went wrong! Working on it. . . .”
What the hell? They’d never had a glitch before.
He had never been one to default to paranoia. But before he could be sure the timing was coincidental, he had better find out what misophonia was.
He looked it up. And it looked bad.
He took the easy way out and called Thea’s mother; but she didn’t answer. So much for that: he would have to call her father instead.
When Bill answered, Max couldn’t resist asking whether Thea’s mother was busy. Bill, who probably shared Max’s preference that Max talk to his wife, showed no surprise. “Linda’s out back, elbow deep in mulch. Do you want her to call you back?”
No, that would be wimping out. “I just wanted you both to know about something.”
Max didn’t get far before his father-in-law started cursing. Max persevered, speaking louder than came naturally to be sure he wasn’t wasting his breath. When he had finally got through a short definition of misophonia, he waited until the older man ground to a halt and an even more awkward silence followed.
Bill broke the silence first. “It’s a devil’s bargain you made.”
Well, he hadn’t exactly made it. But he had, in the end. He’d made the decision. And what did that matter, at least right now?
Bill wasn’t through. “Of course the company’s pulling this shit. Did you, either of you, really think they’d care about what she was entitled to know?” He turned his head and appeared to actually spit.
The last thing Max had had the time or perspective, or much of a reason, to consider that day was what Thea’s parents would think. Now, he wondered. “If she’d left it to you, made you decide, what would you have done?”
The power of rage drained away from the older man and left him diminished, shoulders slumped, his face a decade older in an instant. “I’d have cursed the fate that put me in that place. And I’d have danced with the devil, all the way to hell, to keep anything I could keep of my little girl.”