The color in their faces had faded and been covered over with a fine pepper ash. Some of the eyeballs had fallen out of their sockets and showed a glimpse of a more solid color underneath. They looked like a misprinted comic strip along the top of the overpass he and the boy rolled below. Moose and bear and birds wearing clothing made of plastic. Some of the wainscoting of the plastic had melted to a slushy brown.
He continued driving into the parking lot. There were some corpses but they were almost skeletonized.
The lot was empty. He parked the car.
Why are we parking so far away, the boy asked.
Just in case something’s there, he said.
They got out. He was a little dizzy. He had been driving through a sun up and sun down.
There was a rollercoaster along the horizon. It was whole.
They walked. His body ached. He was moving in slow motion. Like his skin reverberated with a music that was tinny. He felt his throat with his hand. It felt like something was growing there. Like accumulated ash.
We made it. We made it. He did not know if he or the boy said that.
At the entrance was a plastic animal that had been burnt. The bulbous nose had been smushed in. He started to walk up to it and almost interact with it but over its shoulder he saw them. Pressed against the park’s inner iron fence like so much fowl. Hands on the grating and mouths open howling yet rotten. The skin beginning to slough. Some wore uniforms of the park. Others had lost their clothing. One curled up like a dog. All of the hair was still there.
The bodies were fresh. There were bites.
Dad? He turned to look back towards the boy, but at that moment the first arrow went through the air. It skittered off the lot to his right.
He did not have the right gun with him and he squinted as the missile came to a stop. It was a cheap toy arrow but with the head removed and replaced with scavenged metal tip. A second arrow made a slight spark as it impacted with the gravel behind them and he turned and in the guardhouse was a fat man with heavy glasses and a bow. He put his body in front of the boy’s and tried to run backwards across the parking lot with his stomach out protectively and a third left the bow and he felt sharp hot pain in his stomach and he thought you fatass. You fatass. He took out the flaregun from his satchel and aimed it at the guardhouse. He fired and fell and it fell neatly inside and caught fire. He knocked the boy underneath him. The guard screamed. There were unlocking and hacking sounds and he exited to the left of the guardhouse and the man stood and collapsed and tried not to fall on the boy who held him and the guard rolled on the ground over and over. The man pulled out the arrowhead. It was a small antler-shaped metal not even a metal but its teeth were sharp. When the guard came to a rest they could see that the uniform was tattered and moss-eaten prior to having been burned and that the man had been disconcertingly plump yet sickly prior to having been burned. He dropped the arrowhead in the parking lot where no one would ever pick it up. The guard stopped moving.
His stomach was losing blood rapidly. He held the flaregun out though it contained nothing and propped himself on the boy’s shoulder and said you stay just like you are to the guard. You stay just like you are. The man’s body was blackened and he said nothing and stared forwardly silently. He could not tell if the guard was still armed and dangerous but he had in his blackened state the look of serene misery of an ancient eastern god.
He waited for some minutes staring at the man and the animal. Neither gave of bird or bush like everything else in the world.
Let’s go into the park, he said to the boy.
No, the boy said.
We need to go into the park.
No we should go back.
We should be here.
We will go around them.
I don’t like the man. The boy was looking at the plastic animal. He thought it was a man with odd proportions.
The boy looked much younger than he was. He looked fragile as if hitting him on the shoulder would knock off a limb. But the man knew he was much stronger than that. That if there was a world to fashion he could fashion it because he could behold nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
He took off his heavy jacket and tore off his overshirt and took off his undershirt and began ripping and pulling it around the wound. The wound was surprisingly deep and he was losing more blood. He knotted the cloth and cut off the extra sleeves and the tag and pulled it tight and leaned on the boy’s shoulder to pull it tight and the boy looked on. After that they rested and all the while the black snow man at the guardhouse watched in silence. The man closed his eyes and reopened them and eyed the guard warily and without a word stood and began limping past the guard and the bodies. He measured his success on how close they were. They grew and grew and grew. The guard would never move. If the entire empty grounds were the guard’s house alone and there was a first aid kit and he could find a quiet place for repose then perhaps something could be made of it.
Fog went through the ferris wheel. Large amusement towers stood like gallows for unseen elephantine criminals. It felt as though there might be birds moving through the air but those were just imperfections in the eye. He could feel a difference in the air at least and he could feel interior change. The legs felt like nothing but the waist didnt and that was starting to grow.
He directed the boy to lay him down in one of the rollercoaster cars. The cars were small and individual and shaped to look like the parts of a mining operation. The title of the coaster had long since faded away but it seemed to be primarily wood in nature. This made him feel good. He slept.
There was no time to be owed an explanation. There was no rant within him. When he woke the boy stood over him. His mouth tasted like cut grass. It was something he had not smelled in years and it made him smile to think of it.
I want to go forward, he said.
I want to go up this hill and then down it.
We will not go high. I don’t want the cart coming back down and knocking you off. I just want you to take me to the top of the first hill and then I want you to come back down. I want you to live here. I will live at the top of that hill.
The boy said nothing. His eyes wide.
But after awhile there was a sound as he batted away whatever the safety mechanism had been, and then they were moving. The boy pushed behind him on the wood slats. The hill was slow and gradual. They went up it and down a small trough and then up a large real hill of coaster tracks. The boy had to stop and take breaks. He told the boy to look at his feet and be careful not to let the cart roll back down. There was a hole in the front of the cart and air and ash made cool runnings over his face. At the top they creaked to a stop and the boy said nothing but secured it with rope from the satchel and climbed over and sat in the car with him.
He spat blood. He spat a hairy crumb of it.
I dont know what to do.
We need to keep rolling.
You won’t make it up the next hill.
You need to keep it rolling.
I dont know how to.
Yes you do.
How do I keep it rolling? It doesn’t have any power.
The ride is inside you. I can see it.
The boy blinked quietly.
I want to be in the cart.
You said everything would be good when we got here.
It will take a whole lot of trying.
It’s a long way down.
I found out long ago.
The boy said nothing and held his hand.
Some time passed. The boy was standing up. He pointed.
He gave the boy the flaregun. I dont have any flares. I dont know where the other gun is. Don’t let him know you have it. Stay on that side of the cart. Do not get near the edge. If you fall, try to hit the grass.
The stranger walked up. The man said, Hi.
The stranger said nothing. He looked like Guy Pearce.
The stranger looked from the man to the boy.
You dont eat people, the man said.
We dont, the stranger said.
You’re not going to eat my boy.
I just went a little haywire. Im sorry.
You went a lot haywire if you ask me.
I don’t imagine you have any children.
I have seven.
You look so young. He coughed. He felt the weight of blood inside him. I just want you to ask yourself one thing, if you were me wouldnt you do the same thing for your children.
No, I wouldnt.
The stranger did not move.
You’re not going to eat him?
The man looked at the boy. The boy looked at him.
Will you keep it rolling?
Will you keep it rolling?
The boy stared longer and then they walked away. He listened to them walk away. He heard their footsteps for awhile and then he heard nothing. He waited longer and looked the sky and he waited and then he stood and pulled at the ropes and pushed away from the track with his foot. He let the pain shudder up through him and he grunted and with a snap the ropes broke and the cart sped through the air. Multicolored in its blur. There was the clattering sound all coasters have. Curtain noises, diurnal. The sonic tracks of creatures with infinite recess. The sound of increase and increase. In that corridor he had reached the highest point which was measured from the first solely by the inertia he carried along with him.
Once there were large deer in the cities. You could see them standing on street corners in the amber lights in forgotten sections of town. They smelled of polystyrene and their plastic was polished and muscular and proportional. Made in China. On their backs were vermiculate signs that were maps to the world of their enfranchisement. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be paid back. Not be made breathtaking again. In the parks where they were all things were better than us and they hummed in misery.