You Must Be This Short To Ride

I’d been commissioned to operate the Topsy Turvy rollercoaster at the back of the year-round Black Lagoon County Fair. My contract was set for two years, but I was expected to stay with the position for at least four. Housing was provided, after all. I’d be bunking in a shack at the edge of the Black Lagoon Forest, right behind the coaster’s second loop. My employers had said that the forest provided an excellent source of food in the warm months, and that there was a modest ice box in which I could store meat during the winter.

I packed my suitcase the morning I was hired, after the bus had dropped me off at my parents’ house in the neighboring town. I shoved two button-downs and a record player in the confines of the leather, tied a pair of loafers to my belt loop, and walked back down the street, where I knew I would make the 11:46 bus to the fairgrounds.

Upon my arrival, I was led behind the coaster’s entrance, along a path that led to my lodgings.

“Your kitchen doubles as your work station,” they’d told me. “You’ve got your START button below the salt shaker, and your STOP/EMERGENCY button below the pepper. Any other action you can think of is impossible and unnecessary. Just remember ‘Salt, START,’ and you should be all set. Make sense?”

I nodded.

“If you have any questions, sleep on it.”

There was a fireplace in the corner, near the foot of my bedframe. I could see a couple of small skeletons peeking out from beneath charred logs, waiting for me to get my bearings and fry up their brothers and sisters.

I looked out the window, offering a view of the coaster from far seat at the kitchen table. The trees spreading into view along the right side of the frame were bare, their white bark peeling and falling to the ground where it wound stick out like snow against the dead leaves. I expected to find an empty ice box, and resigned myself to watching for a slow hare to waltz by, lost from its family and enjoying the quiet clarity of the cold air.

It can take more than ten days to die from dehydration and starvation.

Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on June 28, 2012.

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