In front of you lies a collection of tents, all decked in brilliant colors, with a person standing in each one. They happily accept the thousands of paper tabs from visitors, each slip allowing entry to the mystical land beyond. Gleaming metallic arms spin for each guest and silently count the number of â€˜adventurers.’ A brown, skeletal monster ascended in the distance. It tosses small serpentine cars throughout its body and catch them again, only allowing a moment to breathe. You shudder in this overwhelming dragon’s company. In your shaking hand you clutch a crinkled ticket, just like the ones the tents require. Apprehensively you approach the nearest booth. Without any words the man inside pulls in your ticket from your hand and gestures you toward the beast. The arms cycle you through, leaving the safe world behind and dropping you into perilous terrain. People all around laugh and giggle with childish delight, seemingly ignorant of the creature lurking only yards away. A beleaguered cry catches your ear. It is faint, but distinct. You follow this newfound victim, not knowing truly where you are headed. As you stroll down the avenue of midway games, the shrieks continue and multiply in intensity. The tempting scents of butter-saturated pop-corn and warm, gooey, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies almost throw you off the trail. Soon, various machinations come into view. Some of these seemingly painful devices spin in various directions. Another is a tall, perilous tower. A small cart is agonizingly pulled to the summit. It pauses at the very peak, as expected. As you squint you see gleeful people, swinging their legs, all sitting on the outside of the cart. A clack sounds and the car plummets to the ground. Their legs are forced straight out, the wind resistance too powerful to ignore. The collection grew nearer to the earth as you look away. You turn to see a vicious battlefield. Armored buggies slide around a metallic floor. The drivers skillfully maneuver the vehicles, concentrated on the hunt. As often as possible, these motorists ram into other drivers’ cars/weapons. The whole ruckus leaves a symphony of clatters and screeches in the vicinity. Above this fight, tall hooks spark in the glory of the uproar. You turn again, trying to make sense of this horrific park. But you face the leader, the villain, the evil creature itself. Its roar echoes through the surrounding territory and makes your spine quiver. A system of fences winds toward its altar, where all the brave folk test its strength. You feel your teeth rattle in utter fear. But you bite your lip, strike a valiant stance, and step inside. Each inch you cover makes you reconsider the whole decision. But you begrudgingly continue. What seems like an eternity limps on as you finally jump onto the walkways surrounding the train. One train sits as more warriors board the seats. They sling a strap over their waists, awaiting the fierce duel ahead. Within seconds, the train is sent away to oblivion, never to return (or so you think). Another identical train slides into place in front of you. In a last second decision you turn around to run away. The line was still barren, not another living soul in sight. You feel like you have a duty to fulfill. You stand taller, turn on your foot and stride to the padded chair. You leap into the chair, strapping on the belt immediately. You realize that you have just sat in the front of the train. You will be the first one to face the gargantuan. Your gut sinks to your toes. You shake your head in disbelief at what you’ve condemned yourself to. But your car shoots off onto an incline. The creature starts its hypnotic, perpetual purr. It clucks its tongue at your futile attempt at glory. It continues like a metronome, tick-tick-tick-tick… slowly driving you insane. The train climbs higher, nearing a drop off. The tip is feet away. But the noises cease. The train levels out for a second. Time seems to slow. You feel the edge dip down to the earth. For a moment you stare down a hill, the monster’s spine forming the path. But the train moves forward, slowly at first. Wind whips your hair, sending it pointing back. Gravity takes hold and flings you down the sharp dip. Soon you arc at the bottom of the curve, the train full of power. The beast draws you up the hill, slowing incredibly as you crest it. The serpent stretched straight out, curved to the right. The train followed. The creature snaked to the right, curling around in a turn. The train rattled with excitement around the bend. Your hands are clasping the hold bar with vice-grip strength. The blood has escaped your knuckles, leaving white streaks along them. Your teeth are bared, although you dare not scream. You squint in the buffeting winds. The cars tilt and spiral downward, nearing dangerously close to the ground. The grass below melts into a green blob. You feel the power of the evil creature coursing through your veins. The train straightens out and the dragon wriggles. The cars jump up and slide down slight hills in rapid succession. At the top of the final peak, time slows down once more. But this instance feels different, more pure. You have braved the “mighty beast.” But it seems to yield to you now. The dragon melts away, leaving the shaking timber. The maple body seems to lovingly support you, enjoying the ride as much as you. The seat of your pants lifts from the leather chair. For a moment you are airborne. The coaster has taught you the mastery of fear. All you need is an alternate perspective. As you slowly glide into the station, you sport a wide grin. With pride you stride out of the station. As you set foot back in the park you look around once more. Various spinning rides delight guests of all ages. A drop tower pumps adrenaline into the willing, and safe, people who hop into its seats. The bumper cars promote a general feeling of comrade competition among park guest who don’t really know each other. The aromas of the sumptuous snacks still wafts through the air. You inhale the heavenly scents and think to yourself What next?
Taming the Beast
August 18, 2008