anything to them, even if the only interchange between them is a shared
glance, a half-formed smile. He has spent far too long in the wilderness
of empty train cars, the numbing silence aboard an airplane with all
occupants asleep and snoring in their seats, their necks jutting back
at uncomfortable angles.
Near the end of his unsatisfying sojourn he pays a visit to the annual
summer fair, held in the expansive fields a few miles outside town.
Simple carnival rides have been set up, including a chair attached
to bungee cords that plummets nearly a hundred feet before snapping
back up, the occupant doing cartwheels, squealing with fear. He debates
taking the ride for a moment, but only a moment, because he has grown
too accustomed to smooth, ever-flowing transport, hurtling on at such
an even pace that one would scarcely believe one was moving save for
the most subtle of ripples across the surface of his water
glass. Compared to that, the bungee chair's jarring of time and space
seems like a descent into endless black.
As he continues to wander through the fair, the air crisp with incoming
autumn, the skies darkening as if welcoming the death of another season,
he feels affection for the Far North for the first time. People here
are stocky and well-fed, perhaps taking their cue from the bears who
must load up on hundreds of thousands of berries per day, storing
up for the long winter. This is something else he cannot imagine;
his life is built on a strict regimen of diet and movement, no alterations
or sine-wave curves allowed.
In a converted barn, the winning entries in a vegetable-growing contest
are lined up side-by-side on fold-out tables, and as the fair is already
one week old, the unmistakable scent of decay spreads like a virus.