by Kris Saknussemm

Night 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 next room.

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 of debris.

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. Plastic thankfully.

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 hurry.

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 individuals fall.

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 gone insane.

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 burned.

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 ourselves.

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 a breadbox.

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.

“Good thing you made it,” the Clam Man says and blows a huge jet of snot.

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.

“There’s a rain comin’…better take cover in a shell. First night’s free.”

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.

“What happened to the rain?” I ask.

“Oh, it comes and goes,” the Clam Man says…with a rather nasty smile.

“Then let her out,” I say.

“Sure,” 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.

“You’ll 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.

“I can’t!” I tell her. “I have to get the shell open.”

“She’s 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 off.

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.

“Who’s that?” you ask.

“A 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.

“Where 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.

“Mr. 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.

“The 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 approaching headlights.

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 like Goober.

“Good,” 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.”

“We’re not staying with any fucking hippos,” you say.

“Perhaps you’d like to feed the children then,” the Zookeeper says with a nasty crease in her lips.

“Why don’t you feed them—if you’re the zookeeper?” you ask.

“That’s 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.

“We’re 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.

“Maybe 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 a net.

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.

“Now,” 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 very fast.

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 vaporizing.

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 the shouting.

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!”

“Why would we want rags?” you ask. “Especially now.”

“You 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.

“You’re 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?”

“We want to know where this place is and what we should do?” you ask.

“This place is here,” the monkey says with another wheezy laugh, as if he’s made a good joke.

“But 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.

“You 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 stay.”

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?

“We have to get out of this shit hole war zone,” you say. “It’s an insane asylum let loose in a bombing range.”

“We 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 together.

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.

“If 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 one go.”

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 of opportunity.

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 stutters.

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.

“We 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 so lewd.

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 it leads.

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 time. No!

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 a miracle.

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.

“This 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.

“Where did you come from?” we cry again in unison.

“Whenever 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.

“What should we do?” I ask.

“You 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.”

“Is 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.

“Why 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.

“How 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?”

“Was it your house with the animal heads?” you squeak.

“What 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.”

“But where does the cable car go?” we howl at the same time.

“How would I know that?” he shakes his head. “You’ve got the handle.”

“We’re safe up here,” I say.

“We don’t know where the car goes,” you add.

A skyrocket booms nearby and the aftershock sets the car rocking.

“Safe,” 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.

“Suit yourselves,” the Old Man nods. “I’m off now.”

“Wait!” we cry. “You’re not just going to jump!”

“No…I’m not,” he answers, as if we’re stupid. And that’s certainly the way we feel.

“But what will happen…where are we and how do we get out?” I want to know.

“The question you should ask yourselves is how you came by the handle.”

“The wires just go off into the dark,” you say.

“Darkness 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.

“You tricked us!” you shout.

“I did not,” he says, looking calm despite the draft blowing up under his dirty old coat. “I didn’t say how the car runs.”

“What 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.


Kris Saknussemm's 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 in 2006.

A 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

2 Fork Hwy
"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."






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