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by Alex Dally MacFarlane

In the amusement park, the rollercoaster roared like a bear. Each twist, each pretzel-like loop, each sudden plummet -- on all of these, the wheels went over the track and out came that wild-creature sound. That roar.


I stood beside the empty seats and my dress was the same bright red as the straps’ buckles.

My torch flickered once, almost went out. Stupid brother, I thought. He’d said they were new batteries when he gave them to me, clenched in his fist like the coins I gave him to make sure he wouldn’t tell our parents.

The metal shapes of the rollercoaster jutted out of the dark, their lines straight, narrow. They looked like bars.


So distinctive, that roar, that children and adults from miles away came to listen to it. Some sat in the seats of the rollercoaster, feeling the roar through their backs and chests and legs. Others stood below and felt it in their ears. They said that it sounded like fresh snow and pine needles, a mate and her cubs, pink fish, blackberries and discarded cans.

They said these things, but they did not think.


After that roar lapped against my ears and my skin, tongue-rough, I couldn’t stop thinking about the bear. Couldn’t they hear how much it wanted to go home? On every corkscrew it cried for its mate, on the final plummet it pined for scales and a wriggling tail beneath its paw.


“We are lucky,” people said, “that Old Man Rickernell built us such a profitable thing.”


In my great-grandfather’s house, buckles covered the walls like sculpted patterns. Some were silver, some gold, some wooden. Some were plain, others carved with complex designs that I couldn’t follow.

I remember touching a half-made one in his workshop, and it felt like an insect bite.

“There’s power in a good buckle,” he once said.

And so I cut them all off, one by one, from the straps on the rollercoaster. They clanged on the floor, chain onto metal, until I reached the last one and the bear burst out of the metal and plastic, breaking its cage into a thousand pieces. Part of a chair hit my arm and I fell, dropping the torch, and tried not to cry into the black night. The bear ignored me.

I heard his roar, triumphant into the night as he ran through the turnstiles and down the steps, and it sounded like the stars and the moon, and trees on the horizon.


I love the speculative element you've created. And even more that the bear gets free...

Posted by: Daniel | December 19, 2007 4:42 PM

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