THE CHASE • by Ken Liu

Ever since the invention of mass media, the distribution of height among the population has followed the power-law curve.

A Natural History of Attention, 2nd ed.

Stay behind me. Don’t get in my way. She’s going to come around the corner in about ten minutes and pull into the parking lot here for lunch. Act like casual tourists so we don’t tip off competitors.

I still remember seeing Madonna on The Virgin Tour as a kid. I heard the moment she came out on stage before I saw it. So many people screaming at once, like Godzilla’s roar, like a flood, like someone punching you in the ears.

Wikipedia says that she was only twelve feet four inches at the beginning of the tour. Incredible, isn’t it? Today, when she goes jogging the seismologists in London have to turn off their machines or else it’ll register as an earthquake. She was big then, but not that big. But that’s not how I remember it. My mom’s boyfriend lifted me up, and I remember seeing this giant woman, taller than a house, on the stage in a wedding dress. It was so amazing I threw up.

So I always knew this would be a good business. People want to see the stars. The stars want to be seen. They have to if they want to grow.

Six more minutes. Don’t worry. My tip is good. Came directly from her maid.

You want to learn the business right? Here’s your first tip. So many beginners chase the A-listers. That’s a loser’s game. Too many are competing for too few shots. Sometimes so many cameras are there that you can literally see them grow several feet in front of you. They are so huge anyway that people see them coming a mile away. You can’t get the exclusives, catch them really by surprise.

The smaller ones, the ones still giddy with their new growth, think they can get away with a secret tryst if they duck down real low in their seats and walk with a slouch. These are the pictures that you want.

This is a good camera, fast, small, doesn’t draw too much attention. I prefer it for urban ambushes. If we were hunting a subject drinking in a yacht at sea or frolicking on a private beach, then I’d use the big lenses and the tripods. Regardless, the cliche about the camera adding five pounds is wrong. It’s the attention, not the camera, that makes them grow.

Just a couple more minutes. Get your camera ready.

Pictures are the vitamins of our world. First we fatten them up into demigods that walk the earth, and when they are big enough, we tear them down so we can have a feast and feel better. Whether you mock them or denounce them, you are talking about them, feeding them. We don’t have great men and women any more, we just have men and women who are larger than life.

I don’t understand the people who carp that they are signs of the moral decline of this country. How can they be? They are not you and me. A woman who needs a private jet to carry her around and has to live in a big mansion because she’s 50 feet tall obviously has different problems from the rest of us. She worries about staying in the eye of the public because she doesn’t want to shrink and end up with furniture and clothes that she can’t use. And she certainly doesn’t want to have to divorce her husband because he hasn’t kept up with her growth. I get it. It explains the antics. But these aren’t problem most of us have to worry about, so why pontificate about their marriage problems?

There she is! Go, go, go! Get her and the guy she’s with!

What’s she doing? That guy is actually going to hit us? Oh Jesus, she’s coming at us with her cameraphone. Hey, back off, back —

You all right there? Still got your camera?

Tell me I haven’t just grown a foot and a half.

Oh, that’s a nasty trick. She posted the pictures of us falling over each other online! She’s giving us our fifteen minutes of fame. Now we are Z-listers and people want more pictures of us. We can’t go out and get any work done until this blows over. Get moving, people are starting to look.

That bitch.

Ken Liu was a programmer before he became a lawyer, and he currently lives in the Greater Boston Area with his wife and daughter.  His fiction has appeared / will appear in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and The Writers of the Future anthology, among other places.

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