I can feel the sun beating on my neck like a woodpecker in search of food as I step into the park, the vile stench of chicken feed and animal droppings fills my senses. The sound of screeching children bounces off the walls of my mind as their worried mother hurries after them across the kettle corn-littered ground. The sudden rush of the warm breeze saves me from the blistering heat for a fleeting moment. I don't know why I decided to come. As I continue walking, I hear odious tracks of music that are played on a loop to lure people on to their contraptions, reminding me of a vicious monster coaxing its prey into its realm. The monster-like machines are marshaled in a mere twelve hours by the thieves who plan to take all of our money and are sure to crumble entirely. I can’t understand why anyone willingly comes here.
As I look at a giant claw which is clutching onto oblivious money-spenders and spinning them violently in the air, I am reminded of a similar machine that broke apart in Ohio. The same claw that I see now was keeping the terrified citizens of Ohio captive, and suddenly decided it didn’t want to hold on anymore. The Ohio Claw released its pedestal which kept it stable, and sent it flying, along with it the terrified Ohio People. Although the monsters themselves are straight out of a nightmare, it is the swindlers who control them we should be afraid of.
I have been walking for hours and I can feel the sweat dripping down my back and my arms are turning red from the unforgivable rays of the sun and the balls of my feet are swollen like plump tomatoes. I feel stranded in a maze of neon lights. The colors red and green remind me of the beady eyes of ravenous monsters. They use their songs of electronic music as bait for the vulnerable fair-goers as the thieves try to suck people into giving them more money. They act as vampires in search of blood. With a giant ferris wheel to my right and the clinking of a ring toss game to my left, I feel as though I have to choose. Do I go on the gigantic rickety spinning wheel that is sure to fall apart, allowing me to plummet to my impending doom? Or do I waste more of my precious coin on a game I am sure to walk away from empty handed? Maybe I should go to a food stand and spend another four dollars on a bottle of water. I really regret having come here.
We finally find a place where we can get relief from the endless trudging. While we sit at a plastic picnic table, of which the surface is covered in a foreign sticky substance, we also notice the resting place smells of spoiled turkey legs, cotton candy and lost dreams. The tables are surrounded by rotting wood fences which are decorated by hackneyed western-themed wall decor depicting gunfights and old-fashioned cola bottles.
We sit in silence and try to stay hydrated in the cruel and unusual heat of this particular afternoon in Phoenix. A group a rambunctious teenagers dressed in shirts that say “staff” on the back invade our sanctuary and disrupt the comfortable silence we had managed to maintain. Instead of pointlessly trying to find another haven where we can relax, we stay and are forced to make conversation with one another, which is the last thing we want to do. My friends mostly complain about hunger pains and exhaustion. I, however, am particularly unhappy with the over-ambitious sales prices of a five-piece kebab, which costs more than a full meal at Olive Garden, and the pungent stenches of body odor and livestock. I look around the carnival and observe the scene around me. As I gaze further into the maze, I notice a gaunt woman who claims to be clairvoyant as she reads the palms of the gullible. A lady at a ring toss game is with her querulous son, trying to secure him the plush gecko he begged her for. The thief running the game convinces her to try again and again, costing her all of her tickets and forcing her to buy more. Further into the maze, is an intrepid young couple ready to give in to one of the monsters, though this one in particular seems harmless. It is but a small roller coaster which has the occasional dip and twist before it ceases. For a few moments longer, I continue to observe the people who are oblivious to the sinister in the air.
As the sun begins to set, the neon lights become more and more vibrant and they are almost beautiful, but then I remember I am looking into the eyes of monsters, and the moment is ruined. I find the lights obnoxious and the songs accompanying them even more so. As the same giant claw I noticed earlier is viciously gripping onto more innocent money spenders as it swings and spins them out of control, I feel sympathetic for them and my stomach tosses itself around like a tumbleweed, for I know theirs must be doing the same. I begin walking once again through the maze of monsters and thieves, and I watch closely as the evil forces take control of the once-happy hedonists that surround me. Whether or not they are aware, I am certain that no one can truly be happy here. No one can be truly happy in a labyrinth filled with thieves and the monster-like contraptions which they use to take more of our money and with it more of our souls. We continue to descend deeper and deeper into the depths of my despair as I am forced to watch as the merciless beasts torture more and more people. Their relentless eyes staring into my soul as they sing their songs trying with all their might to draw me in. But I am stronger than they know. I will not buy into the scam. I will not be further consumed by their capital.
I feel as though my resolve is waning as they shriek at me to play their games and I feel paranoid as they stare at me in awaiting my response. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed by the calls of the monsters. The neon lights begin to blur into the eye of one enormous beast. The music now sounds like a high pitched ringing in my ears, and my feet have gone numb. The sun is now almost asleep, but it left its brutal cherry red handprint on my forearm in its wake. After ten more minutes, I finally escape the labyrinth and reach the parking lot. I feel as though I am being released back into the land of the living, knowing that I am no longer threatened by the monsters and thieves that terrorize the Arizona State Fair.