DISCLAIMER: This is an indefinitely unfinished story. There will only be three chapters posted. Read at your own risk.
It’s not easy to pretend as if you’re listening to someone when they are speaking in a pompous manner. For some, it’s even a painful experience. Jen, for instance, suffered at the mere thought of having to go through it. She, unfortunately, was a ride usher at The Fatal Turns, where this was a particularly common occurrence. There were few things that Jen outright disliked and verbose people happened to be one of them.
“Behold the monstrous beauty of a rollercoaster that could fall apart at any given moment. Yet, the masses still patronise this establishment at astonishing volumes. Each step towards the ride is a step towards the prospect of death, yet the line endures if not gets longer. Isn’t that fascinating?”
“Not particularly,” Jen sighed.
“We live in a society that favours the thrill of mortality. At the same time, these people wouldn’t hesitate to press legal charges for any damages. Is that not enthralling to you?”
“Go on, it’s your turn to ride,” Jen said, seizing the opportunity to get rid of him.
“Right. Thank you for humouring me… Dan?”
The man smiled, then walked away from Jen, and to a row of shorter queues for the front seat on The Fatal Turns. The queues filled up as the train arrived. The barriers swung open to allow the new batch of passengers onto the train. Jen prayed that the broken gear she found the night before wouldn’t cause any problems. She had notified her supervisor, but he had dismissed her concerns. You’re being paranoid, he said. We haven’t had an accident before, he said. After all, the rollercoaster ran fine during the test launch earlier that morning.
“Hey, Jen, don’t space out. We have a job to do. Go check if the passengers are secure in their seats,” her colleague, Killian, chided her.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she replied as she rushed to the train.
The creaking contraption made a turn, then another, over the mess that the park was. The irony that the place was being marketed as the place where dreams are realised wasn’t lost on Jen. She wondered who in their right mind would dream of a place like that. The park was nothing but a shadow of its former glory with chain restaurants that produced more air pollution than food. The Fatal Turns was the only ride left in the park after the others had fallen apart from the lack of maintenance.
Up until ten years ago, the park had been the pride and joy of the town. At some point, its standards of service and working conditions started to deteriorate. Protesters came in droves to demand for the management team to be replaced. There were a lot of people who had a deep connection with the park. It was one of those things that you never grew out of. Yet, the same management team remained in charge and the business continued to thrive. A huge contributing factor to that were the people who continued to come back. That place was home to them, even if it’s only a place to show their children how complacency was a cardinal sin.
“Is something bothering you?” Killian asked.
“Are you sure?”
Killian flashed Jen a weak sympathetic smile. He was well aware of Jen’s feelings towards the ride and for the most part, he shared her values. If he had a choice, he would have chosen a job that was as far removed from the park as possible. It wasn’t easy working at a place like that, especially if you had a conscience.
The train reentered the launch site, the motor letting out an asthmatic wheeze. The passengers drowned out the noise with their excited cheer. The next group of passengers were ready to board and they rushed into the emptied seats, chasing the previous group off.
That was how it was every day of the week. It didn’t matter in the slightest that you could be stuck in line for hours, or that the quality of the food was abysmal. Even on a slow day, Terra Somnium was crowded with customers. Following that trend, the patrons were there that morning and they were ecstatic to celebrate the opening of the newly renovated washrooms. Before, the washrooms had been so badly maintained and cleaned that all that remained of a few cubicles were holes in the floor with pipes that squirted out dirty water whenever the few functioning toilets were flushed.
Among the many admirers of the immaculate sanitation facilities were Kame and Yuka. They were in line for the washrooms that was almost as long as the one for the rollercoaster but they stayed in line.
“I’m telling you, Kame, never get pregnant,” she said, “No amount of maternal joy can put a positive spin on it. Stay childless. It’s much easier on the bladder.”
“I’m not sure that pregnancy is the problem when the line is this long. Besides, you haven’t been pregnant for almost six years!” her sister laughed, “Speaking of which, why did you decide to take me and not Miyuki? Hasn’t she been begging you to take her here for months?”
“The amount of decay and disrepair here is enough to give an adult brain damage, let alone a five-year-old. I’m trying to cut my losses. Taking Miyuki here would feel more like a punishment than a treat.”
Kame jabbed Yuka in the stomach.
“It has been a while since we’ve been here, haven’t we?” said Kame pensively, “Hey, what happened to that college roommate of yours that participated in the protests with us?”
Yuka clenched her jaw as her eyes darkened.
“Don’t want to talk about it?” Kame approached cautiously.
“There’s nothing for me to say about her. She left without telling me why. That’s all I know.”
Jen placed her time card in its slot, taking a second glance at the name that it was labeled with. From the corner of the staff office, Killian was staring so intently at her. It made her feel uneasy.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.
“Not now. Now, we eat!” she replied, feigning enthusiasm.
Pulling him by the wrist, she led him out of the staff office and straight to the cleanest-looking fast food restaurant at the park. Killian struggled to regain autonomy over his wrist since Jen was unnaturally strong for a relatively small person. Despite that, he tugged repeatedly at his organic shackle, until finally he pulled hard enough to get Jen’s attention. She scoffed at his escape attempt as she turned back to face him for just long enough to walk into someone.
She released Killian and offered her hand to the woman who was now on the floor after having lost her balance. She took Jen’s hand and pulled herself back onto her feet.
“I’m sorry. Can I buy you a drink or… Yuka?” said Jen.
“Do I know you?”
“Yuka, it’s me!”
Yuka stared at Jen. She looked down at the hand that she was still holding on to and noticed a scar across the back of Jen’s hand that immediately jogged her memory.
“Jensen?” she whispered incredulously.
“I really hate to interrupt, but Jen and I have to make a move or we’d have to go back to work without lunch,” Killian said.
With a firm grip on her bicep, Killian pulled Jen back en route to the restaurant in spite of her resistance. She shot him a look of pure animosity before exhaling forcefully, then softening her gaze. Killian often did or said things that she did not appreciate, but it was difficult to stay mad at him knowing that he usually meant well. This time though, she wasn’t so sure about his judgement.
At the restaurant, Jen picked at her curly fries. She pulled them apart, separating each curl, then sighed and rested her head in her palms. She looked across the table at Killian who was wiping his hands on a serviette. He pulled out his phone and started tapping furiously on it.
Her phone vibrated.
If you don’t finish that, I will eat all of it and leave you here –Killian
Jen chuckled. She licked her fingers then rubbed them all over her fries.
Her phone vibrated again.
You are disgusting –Killian
She laughed. Then she caught a glimpse of the wall clock and saw that they only had ten minutes left for their break. She forced down her food, then they got up to leave. They had another five hours till closing time. Five more hours of listening to pretentious patrons talk about their interesting analysis on the park and its existence as a metaphor for the greed and corruption of corporations and the mindless sheeple that went along with it while continuing to spend their money when they could be donating it to charity – as if they were the only person ever to come up with that.
Finally, her shift ended. As she was leaving through the entrance of the park, she was stopped by a familiar voice.
“About that drink…”