ECHO CITY – random extract #5

February 18th, 2010 • Posted in Random Stuff |

Once, before the Hanharans had declared them blasphemous because of their artificial stimulation of ecstatic terror and awe, her mother had taken her to one of Mino Mont’s traveling fairgrounds.  She’d been a child then, maybe ten years old, and the smells, sights and sounds of the fair had remained with her ever since.  She’d never seen anything like it.  Men and women walked through the crowds on stilts a dozen steps high, dropping roasted nuts into willing hands, urging people to try this ride or that, or the phantom rooms, or the crushed mirror swamp.  Huge, creaking structures of wood, metal and rope rose all around, with oil lamps burning different colored and scented oils and casting their soft light over the whole scene.  And it was one of these structures that had grabbed Peer’s attention from the moment she first saw it.

Her mother told her it was called a drop ship.  People paid to be strapped into a metal-reinforced wooden cart, which was then hauled to the summit by means of an intricate system of pulleys, ropes and chains.  The pulling was carried out by three tusked swine, and even that process was made into an entertainment, with clowns leaping from one creature’s back to another and conducting a fake swordfight with silk snakes as they went.  Once the cart was at the top, the clowns paused and began a countdown.  Ten … nine … eight … When they reached one, a clown threw a lever in the hauling-wheel’s hub, and the cart fell to the ground.

The noise was tremendous.  Ropes whipped around wooden spools, sending smoke hissing out of the ride.  The people inside screamed.  And as it reached the bottom, a high whining shriek was emitted from the complex braking system.  The riders emerged laughing and pale, shaking and whooping, and Peer had insisted that she have a turn.  Her mother had refused at first, but soon relented.  She’d been wearing a smile that day, and Peer was the center of her life.

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