Cosmic Whee!

Terry wondered whether to join the queue. It was always like this at Lucerne’s Halloween Fair, with lines so long that they put you off the rides; they were up to an hour sometimes – what for? Were some rides really so much better than others?

The annoying thing was that the rides he took were never that good. His friends waiting longer seemed to have a better time. They whirled, jerked, spun, and flipped in ways they couldn’t describe. His best friend tried, saying, “It’s like being in a blender, drunk, on the ice crush setting,” and then putting on a Sean Connery voice, “Schaken not schtirred.” Terry’s ride had been lame, just an irregular creeping that made him feel disgusted. You were meant to feel scared.

This year, he decided, he would be patient and wait. He joined the line for the newest machine, called Cosmic Whee!, which was shaped like a neon tree about the size of a mature fir. When operational, its arms extended more like an oak tree, and they flashed through every colour. It seemed to ascend and expand, and sparked, and shot flames. Terry wondered how safe its electrics were, not to mention the gas lines fuelling the flames.

People waiting were enthralled. Imagine what it must be like for people enjoying the ride! He could see why it had the longest queue.

Then Terry noticed something strange, that there weren’t any people enjoying the ride. Nobody was sitting on the arms. Where were they? What were people queuing for?

He tapped the shoulder of the boy in front of him, and said, “Excuse me, what are we queuing for?”

The boy was annoyed at having his viewing disrupted, but then gave a quick smile. “It makes you disappear, you know.” He saw the troubled look on Terry’s face and added, “The Cosmic Whee! makes you disappear. That’s what they say.”

Terry said, “Who says? The fairground people?”

The boy drew up to him closely. “No, the people. My friends told me. That’s what they say. You’ll see for yourself. Don’t say I didn’t say so.”

Terry was confused. How could this ride make you disappear? He watched the next customer walk up to the contraption. A small round door slid open and he climbed inside. Then the door shut. It was only one person at a time – no wonder the queue was so long! Again the ride’s arms extended, flashed, ascended, expanded, and sparked, and flamed. Three minutes later, the round door opened, and was empty. Where had the rider gone? Had he disappeared?

The boy in front turned and raised his eyebrows, and said, “See?”

Terry noticed a figure at the back of the ride. Was it the rider? No, it was a young girl, much too young for this ride.

Terry waited in line for an hour and a half. He thought there must be some trick being played, with people exiting elsewhere. Maybe there was a tunnel to another part of the fairground, where they popped up and went home. He looked around at the other rides – traditional ones like dodgems, carousels and rollercoasters, and modern ones like Booster, Freak Out and Top Spin. There were also games of strength, skill and luck. But there was nothing as dramatic as Cosmic Whee! and nothing with a longer line.

Terry reached the front at last, and was greeted by a man in neon blue tailcoat and orange trousers and hat, who said, “Come on in! This is the real show!” He directed Terry towards the round door, which slid shut behind him. He felt claustrophobic at first but soon was comfortable on this bridge of darkness.

Twisting light rings appeared around him and then slid downwards with increasing speed, as if he were in a giant elevator with a crazy barber’s pole spiralling down around him. It was disorienting initially but became habitual. It seemed quite normal; a part of life. He was alive and part of life, at the heart of life, a twisting strand of DNA. He lost track of time. He could be here forever.

He didn’t disappear, just appeared in a different place, almost like this one. A parallel universe within the multiverse. And a being from a fairground there came to the fairground here. In ancient times there were shamanic flights and ecstatic rituals. Now there was technology and leisure. The goal was the same as ever – to cross-fertilize universes. A diverse cosmos is healthy.

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2 Responses to “Cosmic Whee!”

  1. Would tick the fourth star, but none appeared.
    “for the newest machine, called Cosmic Whee!, which was shaped like a ” — it would flow much better without the “called” and the “that”

    • javedbabar Says:

      There are stars in the virtual sky, my friend; maybe their light has yet to reach those on dial-up…

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