by Kris Saknussemm
time. Warm. Humid. A vast, mostly uninhabited fairground with
weird giant clown heads leering out of the darkness of closed
attractions…statues of goofy characters off in the distance
of dead rides looking sinister now…abandoned booths…broken
lights sparking…silhouettes of people, not clear enough
to be certain of their intent.
We arrive at a ride that is still running. It’s like a huge
roulette wheel, which can ratchet itself up the central axis as
it whirls. The man running it has a white redneck face but the
body of a black bodybuilder. No one is in any of the car-containers
near us—the few people there are all on the other side of
the circle and we can’t see them.
The ride begins and the spinning starts to get really intense,
the feeling heightened as we lift higher off the ground, seeing
both more of the fair and less, with the shadows and the shut-down
sections. You take notice of the rhythm of the rising and revolving
and say, “It’s like a sex machine.” I say, “Yes,
and like a time machine.”
Then we start to get really hot…touching each other…kissing…and
then we think what it would be like to fuck while on the wheel,
flying around this haunted fairground. You’ve got this flimsy
mint julep dress on with no panties and I’m wearing microfiber
cargo pants. You’re wet and ready. It’s easy for me
to pull it out and slide into you. You can ride me while we speed
higher and harder around and around.
No one can see because we’re up too far from the ground
and moving too fast. You rise and squat—and pump, feeling
my whole cock inside you, thickening even more with the texture
and the pressure. At first you ride me, just like a merry-go-round,
me playing with your tits. The texture is perfect. Squishy, but
not soaking. Tight like a mare’s grasp…so that I can
feel the walls of you suck in around the head and shaft like a
deep muscular mouth. I start bucking up inside you to meet your
grind, pulling your skimpy cotton dress up so your ass is fully
exposed to the warm wind blowing past, and I can peel the cheeks
back, getting the whole meat of you in my hands…from your
moist puckered asshole to your quivering flanks that I slap with
my hands as the pressure starts to rise and you shove in against
my chest to rub the shaft against your clit.
I ease a finger into your ass, which is dripping and loose now…your
breasts free of the dress and my mouth moving between the nipples,
which look bigger to you than you’ve ever seen them, hard
and wet and pointing out…almost wanting to be bitten off.
The ride seems to accelerate in time with our hunger…like
a mania we’ve infected the machine with…and just as
we’re both about to come…there’s a massive wrenching
sound and a blast of what looks like neon starlight…then
steel and live wires go whipping past our heads and the limbs
of someone on the other side of the wheel fly by and we feel this
rush of dizziness as the whole ride snaps from the axis and tilts
madly, hurling us into the air, still fucking.
We only become disentangled when we land…in this lagoon-like
marsh on the other side of the fairground. We can see the faint
reflection of the few ride lights reflected off the underbelly
of low clouds, but it seems like a million years ago. There are
shouts and sirens, but they get muffled and more distant very
quickly. We’ve fallen into a kind of swamp. Half-submerged
holiday cabins and mired bulldozers covered in lichen and moss
lurk all around us. There are gas flares and burbling pockets
of bubbles rising. Inner tubes float…and a big fiberglass
ice-cream cone that looks like it was shot at by a rifle. Then
you feel something brush against your leg and you let out one
of your squeaks. Maybe it was a mud turtle. Maybe it was something
else. There are clearly other things in the water than just algae-coated
shopping carts and stolen road signs. We both start to panic a
little, wondering what we’ve fallen into.
Then we see it misting into view—like a mirage—until
the iron and timber emerge. It’s like a houseboat…or
rather…it’s like a farmhouse built on top of a rusted
barge or channel dredge. We swim for it…the flaking ladder
on the near side. You climb up first, your dress ripped down the
back, and when you reach the top, your butt is right in my face.
For a moment, I forget everything else that’s going on.
I want only to fuck you in the ass, right there on the deck of
the barge. Then an owl swoops down with a plump, sopping water
rat in its talons, and I remember what’s just happened.
We don’t know where we are. We might’ve fallen into
toxic sludge. And who in the hell lives in this floating house?
Are we really alive still?
There are a couple of foggy lights on and some music playing.
Something sappy and lost in time, like a Jackie Gleason record.
Music to pour a martini and get the girl into bed by back in the
1950’s. We’re freaked. We’re wet…we appear
to be unhurt…but we need help. So we go inside. No knock.
The screen door is open.
There are more mosquitoes inside than out, but at first it’s
kind of a strangely cheerful scene—reassuring compared to
what we were expecting. My dick is still hard from the image of
your ass arched up before me when we climbed onboard, but we can’t
be fooling around right at the moment.
The room we’ve entered is a homey old farmhouse kitchen
with awful green and yellow painted cupboards and cheesy knickknacks
everywhere—a refrigerator armored in souvenir magnets…what
looks like a frozen dinner now steaming on the table, as if whoever
lives there was just about to sit down and eat. We call out but
no one answers. We wait but no one comes. So we peek into the
There’s a candle in a screened lantern burning, but it’s
enough to light up the walls and we see them all staring down
at us. Animal heads. Hundreds of them. From deer and wildcats
to pigs, donkeys, even mice. They’ve all been expertly mounted,
but crammed together. The candle casts a glow down the hall to
the rest of the house, and we see there are more animal heads—fish,
snakes and birds. Cats. Dogs. Horses. We shit ourselves. The whole
place is a grisly taxidermy museum, but oddly innocent and farmlike.
The contrast really gives us the shudders. And still no one answers.
No sound in the place. Just the swamp noises outside…the
burbling of the water, the hiss of escaping gas…and the
jut and bump of the barge rubbing against sunken or drifting bits
After a moment of fussing and arguing about what to do, we decide
to check the whole place out. I take the candle and we do a room-to-room.
Every chamber is exactly what you’d expect a quaint old
farmhouse to look like—except for the stuffed animals. Frogs,
rabbits, even a couple of eerie clown heads from the fairground.
But in what is sort of like the parlor where a television sits,
there’s a table laid out with a miniature trailer park on
it. The detail is remarkable. Perfect little Winnebago’s
and older enclosures. Tents. Toy cars and itsy bitsy people, like
expensive mold-cast figurines…willow trees made of strips
of cardboard and torn flannel. Everything is exactly proportioned…and
there’s a curious sense of order to the layout…all
the people and vehicles positioned around this gleaming silver
miniature Airstream trailer. And then, at the same time, we realize…
The miniature trailer park is laid out like a kind of board game.
Just then, we hear a sound outside that brings us to full alert.
The sound…is actually two sounds. One is disturbingly near
at hand—but impossible to place. It seems to be an extension
of our inner turmoil, as if the hypersensitive channels of intimacy
and anxiety between us have escaped and are now animating the
bizarre houseboat. The other sound is clearer and more immediately
compelling. A rush of water…as if the barge has cut loose
from the sludge and gurglings of the swamp…the reed tussocks
and the carcasses of metal…and is now in some swifter flow…heading
toward we know not what. We bolt outside to the deck, bumping
into each other, dropping the candle in the caged lantern in our
The sight outside is mind-stopping. The barge has indeed wandered
out of the lagoon and is quickly slipping into a genuine bay.
Before us are two things. Closer at hand is a ferry boat, like
the Staten Island ferry, only the size of a very large cruise
ship. Every single window is lit and blinking fiber optic cords
festoon the sides so it almost looks alive. The odd thing is that
people keep leaping off the top deck, which is a long way down
to the water on a boat that size. They fling themselves off like
they’re drunk or stupefied, splashing and whinnying. Fragments
of clothing follow them down…old-fashioned hat racks…newspapers
and magazines…and money. It’s as if whole cotton bales
of currency have been torn apart and flung over the side. The
bills waft down in the lights like leaves on fire…all over
the harbor…some blowing past us as the barge lurches, gushing
into the stream of the bay.
The second and even more imposing thing we see is a city with
spotlights slicing back and forth—and skyrockets that may
either be fireworks or bombs spurting overhead.
Part of it is like Laughlin, Nevada, crowded up against a palisade
of cliffs…but with colossal faces carved in the rocks…billboards
collapsing down the embankment…the signs of campfires and
shelters in the clefts. The part overlooking the water looks more
like Louisville or Memphis, an American river city, but with hallucinatory
Asian and Middle Eastern influences. Like Damascus on the Mekong.
It’s hard to be certain of anything because the city is
literally falling down as we look at it. Enormous demolition equipment
is attacking it, like dinosaurs smashing a model village. We can
see looming cranes and wrecking balls swinging, lit by anti-aircraft
lights. There are men with luminous green hard hats all over the
wharf area…with gauze face masks…and people with lunch
boxes for heads or parking meters. It’s a like a City of
Idiots…completely demented. Except for one huge pillar of
scaffolding. Within this framework, thousands upon thousands of
people hang, scurry or climb like spider monkeys…all wearing
signal orange jumpsuits and headlamps. There are so many they
give shape to the structure, making it a skyscraper—but
writhing with instability and change. Every so often one of the
scalers plummets—but their place is instantly taken. More
and more swarm from below, driving the others higher, until the
building has a true and sustaining shape even when some of the
Only when we have gawked at this scene for a few moments…trying
to take it all in…make sense of it somehow…do we realize
that the lantern we’d left behind in the farmhouse has set
the place ablaze. The windows and door frames crackle with the
heat, shattered glass from the panes raining down over the deck,
flames whooshing out. We’re heading into a collision course
with the giant ferry of lights and jumpers and snowing money…on
a barge with a burning farmhouse roaring…approaching a city
Somehow, the whole frightening pandemonium of the situation charges
us. We wanted trouble and bright lights—and we’ve
got it. In spades. Our best option looks like jumping ship before
we smash into the ferry—the barge might well survive in
sections—but we recognize that we might get eaten up by
the screw propeller or flounder to drowning in the wake. Plus,
we’re feeling a little flush in the luck department remembering
the roulette wheel ride. Then two things happen.
Out of the wildfire farmhouse charge these people with animal
heads—they must’ve been behind the walls—imprisoned
or secretly watching us—we’ll never know, because
they stampede off the barge into the bay, the flames flaring out
when they hit the water. The whole structure explodes as they
do, and almost sends us into the drink with the repercussion.
Then we hear a voice from down on the water. We think it’s
one of the animal head people who’s okay and now calling
for help. But it’s not. They’re gone—too badly
It’s a big fat guy in a life raft. Only he doesn’t
have hands. Arms, but no hands, and so he can’t row very
well. He’s in even greater danger than we are of being crushed
by the ferry because he’s just in a little inflatable. But
if we were in it and were rowing, we could get to land. So we
jump. No words between us…nothing. Except…
At the last second, you turn around and run back into the farmhouse,
with timbers crumbling down and flames pouring out. I think, this
is it. She’s cracked. She’s dead. Charred. Gone.
And then you reappear. You’re clutching the Airstream from
the trailer park board game. Your dress is on fire. And you run
right past me, grabbing my hand as you go…and we leap into
the bay as the farmhouse really blows…lumber, melting fridge
magnets and scorched animal heads hailing down behind us.
We hit the water about 15 feet from the life raft and swim toward
the fat man, who’s waving his stumps at us. You’re
closer. You make the raft. Then you do something I’m secretly
really grateful for, but shocked to see. The moment you’re
settled in the spongy little yellow boat—that looks so very
small up against the nearing ferry, you let go of the Airstream,
pick up one of the oars and smack him in the side of the head,
knocking him over the edge. I scramble in and pick up the other
oar, with him nearby in the water, still conscious and beginning
to flail. When he gets close enough, I nail him over the head
as hard as I can. You started it and I have to finish it—and
I instinctively understand your point. We don’t know him.
We don’t owe him. There’s ash and destruction all
around, we may already be dead and in some Inferno. We have only
Then I start to row like holy hell. But I’m a very good
rower. Have been since a kid. We slip out of the ferry path just
as it hits the barge, the iron and steel of it doing more damage
to the ferry hull than vice versa. But the incinerated farmhouse
slides off the back into the harbor taking all the animal heads
and miniature people secrets with it…extinguished in a last
fire swirl of disintegrating studs and a monstrous belch of steam.
The ferry plows on, passengers still chucking themselves off,
the lights still twinkling, a wicked gash to fore from the barge
impact spraying water and ruptured wood over our heads. But we’re
too busy tumbling in the waves and trying to stay in the raft.
We row toward the city. There are fires up and down the shore.
Some seem to be consciously lit bonfires of furniture and driftwood—or
smaller cooking fires. Others are the smoldering bodies of cars
and machines. We don’t have much choice but to try to land.
The raft is too small to risk crossing the harbor, and we have
no idea where we’re going. There are people outside the
rings of fire along the quay and the spit of rocks and sand—all
of this below a wall of broken cement and razor wire beneath the
city. Some people are surf fishing, oblivious to the chaos around
them. Others seem to be engaged in what looks like a paintball
game. Farther down, in the shadows from the spitfires and the
lights of the self-destructing city, it looks like uglier things
are happening. Rapes, dismemberments, unknown rituals.
Back behind us, people begin shoving cars off the ferry as water
surges into the damaged hull. We can’t tell if they’re
desperately lightening the load to keep from going down—or
enjoying the vandalism—because they cheer whenever a car
goes over and splashes into the black bay, the ferry still churning
forward even as it takes on water.
We have to turn our attention back to bringing the raft in while
avoiding the rocks and stuff along the shore. There are oil cans
and plastic bottles everywhere in the dirty foam. Other things
look sharper and more dangerous. But we come in on the waves from
the ferry and drag the inflatable up toward these granite seawall
reinforcements. I carry the miniature Airstream under my arm like
Once we’re up below the glare of the city on the other side
of the wall, we see that we’ve pulled in right in front
of two Slavic looking men. One is sitting by a stick fire with
a sheep on a leash, as someone might with a dog. The other has
a row of great clam shells laid out on the sand, which seems to
percolate with a squishy kind of residue as we step across it.
If the shells were smaller, he’d look like a street vendor
of knock-off jewelry. As it is, they look more like shelters.
They’re big enough for people to sleep in.
thing you made it,” the Clam Man says and blows a huge jet
We’re not at all sure about that. There’s something
distinctly creepy about both of them, and as we look around, it’s
clear they live here. They’ve got a larger raft with an
outboard motor on the back, cooking utensils and whole lot of
what looks like recently stolen electrical goods, all hooked up
to a diesel generator covered in grime. But at least they’re
not cutting people’s limbs off. Yet.
I start to ask a question, but then I realize I don’t know
which one to ask first. The Clam Man cuts in before I can speak.
a rain comin’…better take cover in a shell. First
The idea of climbing into one of the giant clam shells doesn’t
do much for either of us. Rain seems to be the least of our problems.
Then a series of fireworks explode overhead and we feel the first
drops of the storm. Heavy, burning drops. It’s like the
magnesium of the rocket flares have mingled with the moisture
from the sky. Down the beach and over the rocks we see the silhouettes
of people scrambling for cover. It’s not ordinary rain.
It’s an acid rain. Two big drops smoke on your arms and
I can smell the flesh sizzle.
The man with the sheep leads the animal into a shelter that looks
like a huge mailbox, and then he and the Clam Man start pulling
on these Haz-Mat suits. Our skin is starting to burn. You leap
into one of the shells and the lid comes down behind you suddenly
and clicks like a lock. I get a bad feeling—worse than the
rain—which very suspiciously seems to stop.
happened to the rain?” I ask.
it comes and goes,” the Clam Man says…with a rather
let her out,” I say.
he says. “Just give me what you’ve got in your hand
there, and I’ll open it up. Otherwise, you’ll need
more than a jackhammer to get that thing open.”
There’s a smashing sound out on the water—wood and
metal giving way—the ferry is really starting to submerge.
have time to think about it,” the Clam Man says, and pulls
out a shining little harpoon gun about the size of a sawed-off
shotgun. He points it at me while the Sheep Man drags their boat
down to the water, then he backs toward it and they shove off,
heading out toward the ferry, where people are still throwing
things off and jumping—some of the bodies occasionally landing
on the cars that haven’t sunk with a sickening sound of
broken bones and choking.
I figure giving up the miniature trailer is no big deal…but
something makes me resist. The metal has stayed cool in my grasp
and feels strangely satisfying, reassuring. Valuable. But if I
give him the trailer when they get back, how do I know he’ll
open the shell? The Clam Man doesn’t look like the kind
to honor his end of any bargain. I don’t know what to do—but
after kicking the shell a few times and bashing it with a rock,
I’m pretty sure he was right about how hard it would be
to open by force. I don’t even know if you can breathe inside.
I start to freak out, pacing the gooey tar sand. Then I hear a
voice. A woman’s voice. But not yours.
It’s coming from under a pile of kelp by the Sheep Man’s
dwindling fire. A woman crawls out, seaweed still clinging to
her skin. She’s naked other than the damp strands and is
very beautiful, but I can see she has some open sores over her
body, as if she’s buried herself in the seaweed for skin
relief. She tells me the men have gone out to salvage from the
ferry. They’re sort of pirate-scavengers. I have a little
time to open the shell. But there’s only one way to do it.
I have to piss all over it—and then ejaculate on it. At
first I don’t believe her, but what choice do I have? So
I urinate all over the clam shell—and to my surprise and
relief it starts to hiss and corrode, softening. “Quick!”
she says. “You have to come on it too.”
Great, I think. I had to have a piss—I was actually dying
for one. But I’m not sure I can just get it up right there…not
with people getting hacked up and a whole city falling down in
flames on the other side of the wall. Then she removes some of
the seaweed to show me her breasts. They’re large and full,
gorgeously shaped. Even with a couple of patches of sores, they’re
something to see. I start to think that maybe she means for me
to fuck her and then shoot over the shell. But when she pulls
back the seaweed from around her waist and thighs, I see her vagina
is a mass of festering sores and chancres…a bacteria stain
surrounding a gaping wound that she’s attached leeches to
in order to eat at some of the blight. Beneath the leeches, tiny
white worms wriggle out of the necrotic flesh. I want to vomit—she
covers herself again.
Then she approaches, kneels down on the springy sand and takes
my cock out of my pants, still wet from the bay. Her mouth is
exquisitely formed, with thick, sensual lips…and soon I
feel them sucking me, licking and breathing on me. She runs her
tongue over the head, following the contour of the glans…defining
its helmet shape. Then she sucks the whole head in, taking two…and
three inches of the cock into her warm wet mouth without moving
her neck. More of it goes down her throat. She seems to be slowly
inhaling it. I harden with the suction and the sight of her taking
me. Deeper. Seen now from this angle, her sores aren’t visible.
She’s beautiful, early 30’s maybe, with scarlet hair,
and big firm tits she brushes against my balls, as she lifts her
head, taking my cock higher as the erection strengthens.
Meanwhile the clam shell is fuming and loosening. Dissolving.
I’m wondering if you’re still alive. If you can see
or hear—or know what’s happening. What you’re
thinking. What you would think.
The Seaweed Woman increases the speed of her sucking, working
her soft full lips back and forth over the head, then licking
the tip of the shaft. Faster. Her head is bobbing hard now, her
breast jiggling rhythmically. I start to wonder what the men will
do to her when they get back and find out she’s helped us.
Me. I feel a tenderness toward her…mixed with raw lust.
Suddenly even her festering sores seem erotic. I can feel I’m
going to shoot. I get ready to pull back—to pull out of
her mouth and jerk over the shell. But as my cock slips out of
her mouth, which I’m reluctant to leave, I have to admit—a
part of me wants to come down her throat, or to spurt over her
breasts—she gasps and says, “No, I must have it! I
need it for my sores. It will heal me.”
I’m just about to blow. I have to make a decision. She’s
thrown me off completely.
can’t!” I tell her. “I have to get the shell
already dead,” the woman says.
Something in her eyes tells me she’s lying. I push her away
and rush to the shell and give myself a final vigorous stroking,
slurping out a gush of hot semen that shines silver in the light.
The gobs hit the slowly decomposing shell and a chemical reaction
starts, spreading over the surface like a phosphorescent shadow.
Soon the whole clam shell is pulsing and then liquefying. I turn
back to the woman who’s fallen on the sand, breathless.
I squeeze my cock and drip a last little pearl of cum down on
her spread legs. The pus-filled infection seems to spasm and the
blind white worms waver and retract. The droplet has eased some
of the putrefaction. I drape some of the seaweed up over her like
a blanket and her breathing quiets as she seems to black out.
Just then an explosion rocks the ferry and it slips deeper into
the water. It can’t stay afloat much longer.
Turning back to the shell, I see you alive—squirming in
a mess of what looks like tapioca afterbirth. It’s wet and
sticky and you’re hysterical with it clinging to you—but
it doesn’t seem to be hurting your skin. A minute later
I have you out and am leading you down to the water to wash you
The water isn’t all that pleasant but it’s better
than the muck of the shell, and you’re so relieved to be
out of there you don’t care. But now you’re naked
and we have to get away before the scavengers come back. I’m
not sure what to do.
Then I walk you back to the remains of the shell where I’ve
left the Airstream. The woman in the seaweed stirs as we pass.
“The Sheep will give her some clothes,” she mumbles.
that?” you ask.
friend,” I say.
It doesn’t even occur to me to question how or why the sheep
will give us some clothes for you. I go to the big mailbox enclosure
and find that inside it’s actually as large as a hangar
at a country airfield. There are hundreds of Vietnamese people
working old sewing machines and looms in narrow rows. One of them,
a youngish man who looks like he’s the foreman, gets up
from a bowl of clear soup and pulls some clothes out of a big
pile of what I imagine are discards or defective goods. The outfit
has a sweet smell of lanolin, the smell of babies and farm fields
in spring time. He gives me a lambs wool vest with a leather exterior…and
these chaps things…pants cut out at the ass…with a
pair of lambs wool lined moccasins.
I hand them to you and you grumble about running around showing
your ass, but I point out that we don’t have much time…and
you start to think that they’re sort of cool. So you suit
up and I grab the Airstream and we book out of there, leaving
the Seaweed Woman either hiding more completely in the kelp, or
having fled—I can’t say which, and the raft with the
men is coming back overloaded with things we can’t see clearly.
It takes us a while to negotiate the rocks and find a crack in
the seawall big enough to scrape through. There are constant fireworks
or incendiaries…the clang of torn metal…the jar and
quake of buildings being torn down…sirens…and mob
sounds…but we keep moving…the borderland between the
city and the waterline ends up being quite a bit more complicated
than it appeared from below…with all sorts of hideous injured
people hunkered down between the pylons and the boulders—and
the sewage conduits. Catatonics. Corpses. I’m amazed how
the sight of your bare ass cheers me as we flee. Everything else
has been stripped away inside. Only primal thoughts remain. A
good thing, as it keeps me on edge.
When we finally reach the city proper, we find ourselves on an
old cobblestone street like in Lower Manhattan. An enormous flag
billows up on a pole. It’s a $100 bill. There’s a
stretch of park filled with statues covered in white tarpaulins
and canvas sheets…and a group of people who appear to be
worshipping a fallen electrical tower they’ve propped up
against an old brick building with marble pillars out the front.
Bulldozers with halogens lights power through a wall down the
street…manholes steam and water mains erupt…people
in wheelchairs either stranded in the shower or there to bathe,
we can’t say.
A man rushes by in a trench coat carrying a fishbowl. He yells
“The Run is on, look out! Look out!”
He trips on a cobblestone and drops the bowl, which shatters,
releasing some brightly colored tropical fish. But there’s
no time to save the fish because mechanical thunder reverberates
off the remaining buildings. A herd of MX riders sweeps out of
an alley, helmeted and shining in plastic and steel. They’re
revving their bikes, chasing down a pack of middle-aged men in
their underwear…with javelins raised…or the ceremonial
swords the picadors use at bullfights. It’s like the running
of the bulls in Pamplona. They chase and hound—and then
hurl their barbs—either nailing or running over the older
men as they charge in panic, trying to get away. Some do and are
greeted with bouquets of roses or lopped-off pig’s heads.
Others are skewered, crushed, or run down till their hearts burst.
We slip into a side alley, away from the turmoil.
A carriage appears…like the kind that should be drawn by
horses. Instead it’s pulled by people, men and women, naked
and with heavy leather blinders on.
After the motorcycle insanity, we think we can handle this slower
moving group and yell “Halt!” They do.
Perched on top of the carriage, in the driving, whip position
is a rotting corpse in a tuxedo.
are you going?” we ask.
The blindered man in the lead says, “Wherever Mr. Hugo wants.”
We look at each other. Somehow they haven’t cottoned on
to the fact that Mr. Hugo est mort. He gone. Wid de flies. Surely
they can smell him. But apparently they don’t. They’re
just wandering around in circles.
Hugo isn’t feeling well,” I say. “He wants you
to take us some place. He wants you to take us to…”
And then I’m stumped. I have no idea where we should go—or
where might be safe.
Zoo!” you yell suddenly—having looked up at the cliff
and seen a rotting billboard showing a woman in a mix of park
ranger / white lab coat gear holding a bunch of parrots in her
oversized hand. The fading caption says… “THE ZOO
IS FOR YOO…All the questions of a lifetime…all the
fun of a blind cherry pull.
I go along with this notion. The zoo might at least provide some
shelter. Maybe. They’re usually open, park-like places with
more vegetation. So we hop up next to Mr. Hugo, where the odor
of decay is so much more unmistakable…but our blinkered,
harnessed friends don’t take any notice. They seem happy
to have a destination to reach.
Except for another gang of motorcycle riders who have lassoed
some young girls in bikinis and are applying white-hot branding
irons to their stripped asses, we don’t see anyone else
along the way—other than shadows of people running and the
lights of tractors down distant streets. To our surprise, one
of the motorcycle wranglers whips off a metalflake blue helmet
and shakes out a big mane of auburn hair. It’s a hot Goth
Asian woman who gives us a haughty smile that has a hint of fangs.
The Zoo turns out to be a ghastly derelict place filled with barred
pits and enclosures with fake animals made of Styrofoam and peeling
plaster. The only illumination comes from grim orange security
lights scattered about on caged poles. The only true building
is a dark glass pavilion in the shape of a hexagon. Facing it,
across a lawn of garbage, is a yard filled with shacks and burrows—surrounded
by a very tall steel fence with brutal spikes on top and covered
over by a mesh of netting that looks like it’s made of heavy
gauge fishing line, the sort they sometimes use on high speed
rotaries to decapitate animals in abattoirs instead of blades.
Behind the bars are hundreds of dirty children…dump kids,
ferals, kids dressed up like dolls—looking woeful and vicious
in the sodium orange. They chant when they see us and the Airstream…
“Knick-knack Paddywhack… Knick-knack Paddywhack…”
We don’t know whether to feel sorry for these filthy orphans
or afraid. Are they rounded-up here by their own strategy—for
protection—or are they the prisoners we suspect them to
be? And of whom?
The answer isn’t long in coming because some of them start
to have seizures. Others start chanting “Zookeeper…Zookeeper…Zookeeper!”
They point and gesture frantically…and over a rise we see
The Zookeeper, who is obviously a source of profound fear for
the children appears on a John Deere ride-on lawn mower, out of
the dark of the supposed Savannah, which is really a wasteland
of fiberglass lions, chickenwire antelope and mangled giraffes
made of retaining rods for concrete walls. The figure wears a
white jumpsuit with black-green mirrored headgear, like night
vision goggles—and we aren’t sure what this means
for us—until the mower gets nearer.
To our amazement we see that not only is the Zookeeper female,
she looks exactly like Yoko Ono when she gets up close. And she
has a tranquilizer dart rifle slung over her shoulder. “ZOOKEEPER!
ZOOKEEPER!” the kids grunt, twirling around and having these
mini epileptic fits. Others moan out some other word, which sounds
I see you’ve brought me a present,” the Zookeeper
says, ignoring the wild kids and pointing with the rifle to the
Airstream. “Give it to me now, and you can stay in the hippo
pond. It’s got the freshest water.”
not staying with any fucking hippos,” you say.
you’d like to feed the children then,” the Zookeeper
says with a nasty crease in her lips.
don’t you feed them—if you’re the zookeeper?”
just what I mean,” the Zookeeper laughs…and we realize
that she intends to feed us to the children, who look hungry and
savage and deranged enough to rip us apart.
not going to give you anything,” I say. There are, after
all, two of us, and the kids appear to be secured within the pen.
you’ll feel different when you see the Gooper,” she
answers and blows on this silver whistle.
The mention of that name and the high pitched tweet of the whistle
drive the feral children berserk. They’re like birds in
And then we see why. Out from the other side of the zoo, up closer
to the cliffs, comes this towering, lumbering form. He’s
about 20 feet high, a kind of ogre, but oozy and dripping...leaving
pieces of himself as he moves. His body is like some kind of resinous
glob made up of bandages and honeycomb—chambers of bee pollen
that split open and spill behind when he walks—or mud daubers’
funnels that crack and powderize. His head is like a huge paper
wasp’s nest—yellowjackets and white-faced hornets
flitting in out. He can’t in fact keep a single expression
in place for more than a few seconds, because his face is whatever
the insects make it out to be at any given moment. The children
chant “Gooper! Gooper!” as he nears, crying and shitting
in their pants. Wherever he steps he leaves a squash of something
like maple syrup or honey…American mustard…and treacle.
Objects he’s absorbed into his mass squish out, followed
by a cloud of bees and flies.
Up close there’s a disgusting odor to him of molasses and
the disinfectants used in public toilets. He’s dripping
and weeping himself all over, his face forming and reforming with
the wasps’ excitement.
says the Zookeeper. “If you won’t give me my present,
then you’ll give it to the Gooper.”
I slip you the Airstream in preparation for telling you to run
while I distract the monster. We know the thing can’t move
A blob of yeasty-stinking brown sugar-gunk plops off at my feet…and
I feel your hands take the Airstream…sliding over the smooth
metal coating. As you do, there’s a click in the top and
the roof opens like a box. This surprises us both enough for us
to look away from the Gooper and the pen of drooling children.
From out of the Airstream you extract a remarkable implement.
It’s like a crystalline tuning fork…but more organically
shaped…like a large wishbone made of some super-fine blown
glass. It’s hypnotic to behold…and has the same effect
on the Zookeeper, the Gooper and the children. Suddenly, the protective
feelings we’ve had about the Airstream, which seemed sort
of irrational and silly before, are now all vividly justified.
The slightest glint of the object, the feel of it to the hand—it’s
unquestionably precious. And it seems to have an inner life to
it, changing weight and reflectivity with our touch.
The Gooper eyes the wishbone, the wasps swarming to maintain his
face. He makes a sound like a clogged garbage disposal and stretches
out a thick resinous hand as the beeswax and dishtowels flowing
inside his mass flop and slurp out in a mess of golden gelatin.
He wants it—whether to eat or play with, who knows? The
awfulness of it makes you drop the bone. I pick it up. It has
a luminous sheen to it now—like something almost radioactive.
And then when I hold it up—and I can’t think of anything
else to do—partly to taunt the giant—partly to try
to ward it off—the wishbone catches the reflection of one
of the sodium lights beside the children’s pen.
A kind of prismatic effect erupts all around us—like a kaleidoscopic
grenade going off. And then the shards of light stream together
like iron filings to a magnet…focusing down into a beam
like a laser, shooting out from the bone. When I raise the bone
a little higher the ray strikes the Gooper’s head and sets
it on fire—the nest exploding in a ball of red flame. A
sticky slab of body drops off and sends the creature toppling
into the steel spikes of the children’s yard, impaling the
thing…so that it smushes down and begins to melt. Furious
hornets fill the air like shrapnel or flecks of hot ash. The children
start smearing their hands and faces into the transparent yellow-brown
bulk of burning, softening jelly…and within seconds the
Gooper is a puddle of caramelized honey and kitchen utensils—like
some school cafeteria flooded with diabetic urine and Jell-o.
The Zookeeper is beside herself, and levels her rifle at us, sputtering
and seething with rage. The light beam from the bone has disappeared
and I can’t seem to catch the reflection of the yard light
again. I can almost hear the thud of the dart that will strike
me. Or you. We’re both done for…unless…
You reach out for the bone…whether you think I’ve
suddenly frozen or not, I don’t know…but in reaching
for it, one of the stems seems to ting. It’s a clear, bell-like,
bird-like sound—just like the tines of the tuning fork it
partially resembles. Hearing the sound, you strike it more forcefully
with a finger and the resulting sound is now like a crystal chandelier
The Zookeeper drops the gun and clutches her ears. The children
begin to wail like ambulances. The air reverberates in all directions.
And we hear and feel it bouncing back off the darkened glass walls
of the hexagram pavilion. Then…ka-smash!
All the windows of the building blast out or in…we can’t
tell…because fragments fly everywhere like knives…and
from inside the pavilion swoop hundred and hundreds of shrieking
bats. They storm outward in a black smoke of flapping wings. Some
hit us in the head—some claw or bite as they whisk past—but
while we duck and swing at them, waving the wishbone between us…they
cover the Zookeeper completely—like sheets of black newspaper
glued to her goggled head. The white suit quickly disappears beneath
them. The claws clasp on. She is simply a clump of leathery wings
and feasting teeth, rolling and thrashing helplessly beneath them.
Some stray fliers the children snatch out of the air, gnawing
into their wings while they’re still alive. Others catch
them by wing or claw and beat them on the ground before biting
off their heads. Other children aren’t so adept and are
hit in the face, blood from the cuts leaking down their faces
as they charge in panic around the pen.
Without a word we hop on the ride-on mower and I gun it over the
rise. As we pass the sad, trash-strewn enclosures, lights come
on and some taped message about the animals that are supposed
to be on display comes on…a generic cheerful female voice
talking about habitats and places of origin. Some bats and hornets
trail after us, but we leave them behind when we pass through
a stand of artificial trees made out of some stiff synthetic fiber
like Welcome mats. The landscape opens up again into some kind
of war memorial with a bronze Sherman tank the size of a chapel.
We finally reach a wide boulevard of fluted iron streetlamps and
burned-out cars. Park benches have been dragged into the middle
like barricades. Down the way we see the spit and glitter of welder’s
sparks and some kids doing tricks on skateboards. We abandon the
mower. Then we hear someone shout… “Rags! Rags!”
It’s an old-time rag merchant’s street wagon, but
not pulled by a horse. The beast of burden is a huge and deeply
wrinkled gray Neapolitan mastiff, at least 10 and maybe 12 hands
high, the biggest dog we’ve ever seen by a long shot. It
looks half asleep in its heavy harness—or maybe deaf from
Seated on the wagon is a bearded, red-faced man with a silk hat
that rises and then slants crookedly and then back again, like
an improvised stovepipe. He looks wasted and worn—and beside
him sits a sleek black monkey that looks as well-groomed as the
man looks disheveled and sick, wearing a little white robe, like
a kind of priest. The man sees us, and sees how close we are and
still he belts out loudly, “Rags! Rags!”
would we want rags?” you ask. “Especially now.”
can’t go from rags to riches without rags, can you?”
the man answers.
We don’t know what to say to that…and then the man
seems to slump…not like someone who’s passed out or
had a stroke—like a machine that’s stopped working.
I look at you and see that you’ve held up the wishbone,
and I wonder if that’s what’s caused the effect. Then
it dawns on us both…the man is some kind of machine. A toy…or
a tool. The owner of the wagon, or the master, is really the monkey—who
seems to grasp our recognition.
quicker than most, yet dumber than some,” the monkey says,
with sort of a wheezy little laugh. “What’ll it be,
rags or remnants? Shreds or patches?”
want to know where this place is and what we should do?”
place is here,” the monkey says with another wheezy laugh,
as if he’s made a good joke.
what should we do?” you ask again…this time with some
real frustration and despair in your voice. “We want to
get out of here. Now!”
Maybe something of the desperation in your tone gets through to
the monkey—or maybe it’s because you’ve waved
the wishbone at him—but he changes his expression quite
dramatically, becoming more doglike and more human at the same
time. Then he reaches over to the man, who now seems propped like
a piece of furniture next to him. The monkey snatches off the
man’s eccentric hat and puts it on his own head. “Some
questions require a hat,” he says.
He sits there with the tall zigzag hat on for what seems to us
like a very long time—so that we begin to wonder if he might
not be some kind of machine too. But at last he comes out of his
trance and makes an announcement.
two ask what you should do…as if I knew. So, here is what
I have to say. To get away…maybe…you should try to
The idea of a talking monkey wearing a big silk hat we just let
go by. We’ve seen so many extraordinary and distressing
things we’re not easily flummoxed anymore. But the actual
advice, which we weren’t really expecting to get, takes
us both aback.
The monkey seems very pleased with his recommendation and restores
the hat to the man-machine’s head. When he does, the man
instantly snaps into animation again and bellows, “Rags!
Rags!” at full volume.
The enormous gray mastiff comes alert again too and the cart pulls
off, with no more comment or any kind of goodbye from the monkey.
After a while, the echo of the man’s voice and the clatter
of the wheels fade away down the avenue—and we’re
left wondering what the hell the monkey meant…and what this
whole nightmare world means. Why, how—and when can we leave?
Which eventually gets us back to mulling over what the monkey
advised us to do. To get away, try to stay.
Beyond the rhyme there does seem to be at least some element of
reason to this remark. Try to find something you’ve lost,
stop looking for it. Try to remember something you’ve forgotten,
think of something else. The contra nature of the counsel strikes
us both as maybe somehow being on the right track.
But if we were to try to stay, where would we take shelter?
have to get out of this shit hole war zone,” you say. “It’s
an insane asylum let loose in a bombing range.”
need a vantage point,” I say.
So we start scanning the palisades…the crackpot sheds clutching
onto the cliff face…what look like old mining tunnels with
sulfur yellow lights glimmering out. Then…way above the
billboards and the little encampments…we spot a plateau
and some kind of kiosk. We have to wait until the spotlights that
criss-cross the sky sliver past and reveal more detail…but
when they do…we see cables running over the void between
the cliff…and another canyon wall we can’t make out.
There’s some kind of cable car that runs over the city.
And the car, which is stranded out about a quarter of the way
on the wire from the plateau looks just like an Airstream trailer.
There’s no escaping the similarity. It has to mean something,
and so, not knowing what else to do, we set out with the wishbone,
heading toward and up the cliffs, to try to reach the cable car.
We walk for about two miles without seeing anyone directly, except
for an old phone booth crammed full of yelping people, some of
whom have clearly disjointed limbs or injured themselves in trying
to fit. We sprint past not wanting to get involved—and not
knowing if they’re there by choice, seeking refuge—or
if it’s some kind of contest. Or have they’ve been
stuffed in there against their wills? A couple of the inside faces
pressed up against the spider-webbed glass are unmistakably the
faces of dead people.
Once we reach the base of the palisades, the prospect of actually
making the plateau safely seems daunting. The cliffs are folded
in and steep, with countless crevices and hiding places…and
who knows how many hostile, paranoid, or just plain evil people—or
creatures—waiting to ambush us. I’m worried about
you trying to climb in moccasins. I’m feeling exhausted.
The whole project seems fruitless—especially starting in
the dark. And the luminous quality of the wishbone appears to
register this discouragement because it sputters and pulses. Dimming.
And then, just as we’re beginning to really pant and puff,
slipping and starting rockfalls—and wondering when we’re
going to get picked off by some sniper shot, or one of us will
tumble off into nowhere screaming—you start laughing hysterically.
I think, shit, she’s lost it. Now what are we going to do?
You’re laughing so hard now you let out a little teapot
fart—like a note on a kid’s toy horn—and that
gets me laughing. We’ve been through so much. We may well
be dead. It’s all so hopeless. Your little toot acts as
a pressure release and all the emotion just empties out. It’s
like another kind of sex. Complete, unrestrained breakdown. But
Only when we’ve laughed ourselves sick, am I able to understand
that you’ve been pointing at something off in the dark for
a couple of minutes. When this finally sinks in, I look—and
look again. And I’ll be damned if I don’t at last
see what got you snorting and breaking wind. It’s an escalator
system build right into the cliff. Neat and flowing like a waterfall
of gridded metal. All our exertions were unnecessary. The whole
system is sheltered by a tall shaft of cage…and while that
means an ominous ride up…with no way out if we’re
waylaid…it’s nonetheless a way up. And a fast one
as it turns out—although our hearts pound the whole way…wondering
if someone or something is waiting for us—hoping for just
something like our arrival.
the thing suddenly stops,” I say. “We try to smash
through the barrier and go over the side. We don’t want
to be cornered and taken alive.”
As terrible as that sounds, it gives us both a jolt of energy
to be in such a situation. We feel more alive because of it. The
dread, the anticipation—it’s like an amphetamine and
an aphrodisiac. I want to go first, in case there’s trouble
up ahead of us. But you insist on riding on the higher step. “I
want you to see my ass the whole way,” you say. It’s
a primal thing. I need your animal. And I promise not to let another
That gets us both giggling again. Our morale has lifted…and
as we ascend we start to feel stronger. More together. More decisive.
We’re taking some active step now, not just wandering. The
fear is still strong. Rich like the smell of sweat or meat. But
it’s sharpened us not cowed us now. If this is all a drug
we’re on, the bewildered lunatic phase is behind us. This
is clear—bright and etched with our concentration.
The vigilant, combat-ready but optimistic mood seems to carry
us upward at least as much as the moving stairs…and gives
us the illusion of a shield around us. The wishbone tuning fork
starts to shine more intently again.
Switchback level by chainlink landing we climb and reach the plateau
without incident or sight of anyone else. Once at the top, you
slip off and squat for an enormous pee, while below the fireworks
thud, the juggernaut of demolition equipment rolls and crowds
of masked and maimed people pound and flee like fools for slaughter.
The plateau is a lonely, barren place. The kiosk is boarded-up
and riddled with bullet holes. No sign of any equipment or controls
inside—no way to call the cable car back. The trash and
bones of old fires lie scattered everywhere. Bras, condoms, shell
casings, syringes and pieces of busted Japanese toys. But the
cable to the Airstream looking car looks strong and hangs with
a reassuring level of tension. In the occasional flash of the
spotlights from below we see a line of seagulls perched along
it. They look spectral in the gloom, but maybe benign. Spirits
Counting the gulls, it looks like about 200 yards out into the
abyss…about the same distance you might feel you could safely
swim drunk on a hot summer night to some little island in a river.
For the first time since we fell out of the roulette coaster in
that other lifetime, I feel strangely confident and relaxed. And
then you peer out over the edge and say, “I can’t
do it. I can’t do heights. Not like this. We’ll have
to stay here.”
I immediately feel my own fear rise. It’s a thousand feet
down at least. What was I thinking? There’s no way. It’s
suicide. Just as insane as those wounded shadows stampeding in
the ruins. Better to hold up in the bird-infested kiosk and wait
for the people with the guns and the needles to show up. Maybe
they won’t know we’re here. Maybe we can even join
their tribe—whatever it is they are. The wishbone light
But then one of the arc lamps below sweeps over the car suspended
out on the cable. It really does look exactly like the miniature
Airstream, only full sized. We were dead right about that from
down below. We can’t have come this far…through so
much…for this not to mean something. What other hope do
we have? What other clue? Somehow, we’ve been drawn to the
cable car. We were meant to find it—to reach it.
have to get out there,” I say. “And I’m not
strong enough to carry you. How can we do it? We have to try.”
You’ve never looked so pale…so white you seem like
a stray piece of spotlight that’s come to life. As white
as one of the gulls. But you answer very clearly. “I want
you inside me as we go. If I have something else to think about,
I can do it. And if we’re going to fall, then I want us
to fall that way.”
You turn and give your butt a wiggle, and then peel back the chaps
in front to show me your pussy. Frankly. So innocent, and yet
It’s like the first time I ever had a chance to stare openly
and unashamedly at a real naked girl. Someone whose skin I could
taste. Not a centerfold on some tree fort wall or some “playmate”
in a magazine dragged out from beneath a bed to jack-off to…but
a real flesh female, close enough to catch her scent…to
know that there is a scent to women, and that no one is exactly
like the other. The terror and the wonder of it…understanding
that this is where we all come from…and yet seeing past
the mother-phobia and lost womb security—always switchbacking
like the escalator—to some crude but pure desire…a
thinking past the thinking…an acceptance of the base wants
as the basis of all.
And soon, we are entwined. Converged. Slow and meditative. Slipping
and sliding forward in the dark like caterpillars. We go fist-hold
by pump along the thick braid of the cable, the lubricated metal
smell getting us hotter, as you wrap your long legs around my
waist, feeling me, barely moving inside you, but pushing, squirming
forward…not just fucking you…but fucking myself into
you…fucking us both along this slender strand of twined
steel, as the seagulls squawk and take flight.
The windswept ashes of the plateau seem miles and years behind
us…we don’t remember the moment of giving way and
letting go of the rock wall, kicking out into the dark air. All
we are is a creature wrinkling itself along in a line…the
squish and plunge of it leveraging us closer. Closer. Closer.
It’s funny, because there are so many times, as a male,
when you long to fuck. To enter. To thrust. It’s been a
wonderful blowjob, thanks very much—the 69 has gotten me
wired and wet and hard…the gentleness, the delicacy and
time-taking, the snuggling and nuzzling—all these pleasures
have their engorging moment, their special, needful appeal. But
then suddenly all you want to do is to plunge and stab. To butt
and ram. To own and occupy. You’ve moved past wanting pussy.
You now crave cunt. You want to shove past the consensual…to
the elemental. To feel cunt walls pushed apart by the strength
of your hard-on. To command and control the rhythm of the drive.
To spray…like a fire hose on fire. Like starlight in a small,
overheated room. To yell and pound—and pulverize. Smash
out the windows and let the rain in. Fuck everything. You want
only to groan and bellow like the animal you have to hide from
being so much of the time. So many hours of every day. So many
minutes of such a short life. You want for just one blood-warm
second, the freedom of all evolutionary time—the right to
violate. And then, for that violence, for that base-of-the-spine
predatory hunting party impulse to somehow be assimilated back
into normality. For your revelation of the Creature within you,
to have been embraced by the other’s Monster…for the
cunt’s Hydra-Gorgon-Venus Flytrap greedy sucking fertile
vacancy to understand. Oh, to let the Creatures really loose in
the company of another demon. How they throb and glisten when
they have a chance. How their craving, once sated, gives back
light and heat—and will. More hunger for life.
But there are other times, when one longs to be mouth-centric.
To suck and pluck at slickening pussy lips. To tease the meaty
little bud of clit, the female penis. And nipples…the ultimate
psychosexual crisis point, firing the brain across the lobes,
across the years. To not only tongue a tender, succulent female
asshole—but to devour it. To feast on where your woman shits…to
submit…to serve—and to consume. To give way absolutely
to the oral child within. To taste. To desecrate oneself with
the smear of enjoyment. To give and bite. To be humiliated and
to reign supreme, literally eating your lover like a conquering
cannibal. To go down and not worry about what comes up or where
And this was where I found myself now.
The inability to realize my oral fixation…the slow screw-piston
enjambment of cock into vagina as a means of transport…the
only means of sexual contact…this heightened my connection.
And yours. Your nipples burned with want for my mouth. My fattened
rod stuck up to the cervix inside you—you felt your clit
tingle with the imaginary urgings of my tongue—your ass
exposed to the wind and the darkness, you felt what it would be
like to have my lips covering it in a rude, cheek-parted kiss.
But there was nothing we could do, except wiggle and gyrate together.
And not look down.
We reach the car and the simultaneous climax is like nothing we’ve
ever felt before. Like we’ve burst open and spurt out all
our organs. The second we grab onto the roof of the car, the shockwaves
hit us…the vibration of longing and fulfillment radiating
through us…turning into an almost electric current. We’ve
done what we set out to do.
But almost immediately, the mood turns sour and anxious. We climb
in and collapse onto the floor of the car, which is empty but
for a silver railing around the side and an operator’s console.
Our muscles ache beyond description. We’re suddenly famished
and thinking we may well just pass out from hunger and fade to
black in our sleep. We don’t have any supplies. We don’t
have any water even! What did we expect to find up here? Just
because it looked like the Airstream? How did we think we could
live on nothing but wind and sex?
The gulls return, curious or antagonized. They flock and peck
at the windows. You nestle into me, the wishbone between us…as
we await the end…both of us believing it will be like some
doomed polar explorers’ mission we’ve read about…tragically
but peacefully slipping off into a terminal daze while the wind
howls outside the nylon tent—the pelting snowflakes turning
into pestering, screeching gulls.
One of the ghostly white birds strikes the window with a crack
of broken neck and falls out of sight. Maybe, once the pangs and
cramps of hunger have passed—the delirium that will come
with thirst—we’ll be free. Forever free and dead.
Things go silent immediately outside as we dangle in the enlarged
Airstream over the phantom city. Only distant sounds of detonation
and dismay…a flicker every once in a while of harsh quartz
light from below. Our thoughts give way to fatigue and surrender.
However, just as this resignation fantasy is beginning to really
take hold, we hear the cry of the gulls again. They’re flying
about once more, but not attacking the windows of the car this
Just as the ravens nourished Elijah in the wilderness, the gulls
have returned to us with food—perhaps from some looted supermarket.
Torn strips of wilted lettuce and not quite molding fruit. Cans
of beans and steak and onions. Bags of peas and lentils. Jerky.
Chocolate! Muesli bars and breakfast cereal. Smoked ham, tinned
tuna…protein…survival fat and vitamins. Everything
they bring and deposit on the roof I retrieve…and we consume…not
even tasting the flavors, just accepting the nutrition, the chance
to keep going. Every single morsel is a banquet. Every mouthful
We savor and gorge on the food as we wanted to orally indulge
in each other’s bodies before. We realize that we may have
a means of staying alive for a while longer.
could be the solution,” we say aloud—at precisely
the same time.
And the moment we say this—an old man appears in the car.
did you come from?” we cry again in unison.
you pick up two words and rub them together like sticks,”
he shrugs. “I’m the Old Man. I won’t stay long.
I’m always here.”
He really is old. And dirty. Like a scarecrow left out in a field
of cow corn too long. But he smells good. Like lanolin…and
an oven warm Cornish pasty in a paper bag.
should we do?” I ask.
keep asking that,” he says, raising a hand that seems too
big for his thin body. “Why don’t you try driving
the cable car? You’ve got the handle.”
that what this is?” you ask, holding up the wishbone.
It seems to have changed shape again, and now appears to be more
of a human designed device. Industrial, although beautifully crafted.
don’t you try it?” he says—and points to a slot
in the car’s console that now, when we think of it, does
indeed look like it was meant to accommodate such a shape.
do we know we can believe you?” I ask.
He smiles. “You mean, how do you know you can trust me?
Tell me, who gave you the handle?”
it your house with the animal heads?” you squeak.
are you talking about?” he replies. “I don’t
need a house. I’m the Old Man. I meant that however you
came by the handle is how you can trust me.”
where does the cable car go?” we howl at the same time.
would I know that?” he shakes his head. “You’ve
got the handle.”
safe up here,” I say.
don’t know where the car goes,” you add.
A skyrocket booms nearby and the aftershock sets the car rocking.
the Old Man repeats.
We see people tightrope walking on the wires. They have headlamps
on. At first there is only a couple. Then more appear. Some are
wiggling along precariously or going hand over hand. Others move
nimbly like rodents, closing in on the car.
yourselves,” the Old Man nods. “I’m off now.”
we cry. “You’re not just going to jump!”
not,” he answers, as if we’re stupid. And that’s
certainly the way we feel.
what will happen…where are we and how do we get out?”
I want to know.
question you should ask yourselves is how you came by the handle.”
wires just go off into the dark,” you say.
is all there ever is until you attend to the right questions,”
he answers—and then disappears right in front of us.
Shit, we think.
Some of the headlamp people shimmying along the cable are nearing
the car. Gulls circle around them. Balloons float up from the
city below. Silver foil, bubblegum pink and satiny red Valentine
hearts. One of the climbers is about to leap for the roof of the
car. We don’t know what they want—or what to do. It
doesn’t seem like a good idea to just wait there like sitting
ducks. Besides, how many people can the cable support? It seems
like now or never. Once again.
So, together we slot the wishbone into the metal sleeve the Old
Man indicated—and like a lever we pull it. We expect the
car to lurch forward—but instead, there’s a rush of
wind and gulls and paper. The bottom of the car has dropped open!
The floor is gone and we’re left clinging on to the sides…all
of the remains of the groceries blowing down over the water and
the city. “Fuckersnattle!” you scream. “Fuckersnattle!”
The Old Man appears again in mid air.
tricked us!” you shout.
did not,” he says, looking calm despite the draft blowing
up under his dirty old coat. “I didn’t say how the
do we do now?” we yell together. “Fall to our death?”
He frowns at us, like we’re upstart kids. “I don’t
think you’re much good at falling. Why don’t you try
finding. You seem to have some knack for that. Just take the handle.”
He vanishes again, and we can no longer hang on…we can’t…there’s
no choice…so we tug at the wishbone, just as a couple of
people land on the roof of the car. We wrench it free and let
go of the sides of the car, holding the wishbone between us…hollering
at first in horror…but also high on the finality of our
decision. The release.
And it doesn’t feel like falling.
After a second…or another million years…the nausea
of letting go is gone and we feel this pitch of pleasure and power.
Just like we did back on the ride at the fairground. It doesn’t
make any sense—it makes less sense than anything else that’s
happened to us since the fairground—since as long as we
can remember. And yet, it feels totally natural. Like something
we were made to do and have done before. We’d just forgotten.
If we’re falling, why doesn’t the ground start rushing
up beneath us? Why doesn’t the collapsing city of tractors
and spotlights and psychotic crowds get closer? If anything, the
lights and the noise seem to recede. We feel this fantastic buoyancy,
as if our bodies were opening up to engulf the night. It makes
us laugh, like the coming-on buzz of some intense drug. Tears
stream out of our eyes with the thrill of it.
People start leaping off the wires and clasping on to us like
skydivers in a routine. We aren’t afraid. More appear—pouring
out of the cliff face and down the cable from both sides. They
fling themselves off and into formation—joined by gulls
and bats and balloons—and still more people who slide down
the wire on chains and then let go.
Together we form this undulating circle. The people’s lights
flash. The ever widening wheel we make turns, spinning around
us and the wishbone that glows at the center. I look out at the
spokes of the sparklewheel—the limbs and the wings and the
fabric all meshed together. All the lives rippling their lights,
with more people leaping, building and growing the spinning machine.
Crystal. Feather. Blood and bone.
And still it doesn’t feel like falling. It feels like a
new kind of travel. A new kind of home.
first novel ZANESVILLE was published to critical acclaim by the
Villard Books imprint of Random House in 2005. His novella “It’s
Always Ourselves We Find in the Sea” was a Semi-Finalist
in the William Faulkner Society’s Creative Writing Competition
second novel related to ZANESVILLE is due for publication by Random
House. His third novel, a surreal thriller in the noir tradition
called A WINDOW IN THE MIRROR, has recently been accepted by Overlook
Press. For more information visit these websites:
© 2007 by Kris Saknussemm
"Is a website run by two very different writers and two good
friends, Katie Arnoldi and Kris
Saknussemm. It’s a mindscape where the language
fetish is openly celebrated - where we support and promote the
work of friends and fellow travelers - and where we investigate
and discuss the lives and achievements of some major figures in
the arts and sciences."