Coming Off Plurality by Peter Baltensperger
October 14, 2013 Comments Off on Coming Off Plurality by Peter Baltensperger
It always began with the Ferris wheel: the tedious climb up the back to the apex, the euphoria of the gondola swinging back and forth almost close enough to the sky to touch, and then the slow, inevitable glide out and over into the nothingness that constituted the outside of the wheel. Tiernan Brewster held on for dear life, his knuckles whiter than white, his body a mass of tangled nerves. The air was thick with dread, his mind convulsing. He could taste the abyss swallowing him up, as if it were alive, a fog with tentacles tugging at him. Far below him, George Ferris Jr. himself was operating the machinery, determining his fate. Tiernan could see the inventor’s wizened face in the fog, grinning gleefully, and the eyes, the eyes. No amount of screaming was ever enough.
When he was down on solid ground again, his throat raw, his knuckles bruised, he felt he should be rubbing himself against one of the pylons keeping everything in place. He thought it would have balanced the black vertigo with the solidity, the primordial angst with the futile pretense. Instead, he climbed the girders of a shivering suspension bridge spanning a deep, lazy river, pulled himself up over the topmost beam, and let himself drop all the way down into the comforting water. It was always just enough.
A disheveled clown from some other dimension and some other time was waiting for him at the entrance to the night, the inside a chaotic confusion of warped mirrors, shattered glass. It could have been a rift in a spinning continuum, his knuckles were white enough. And then his face morphed into shards of reflections until he couldn’t look himself in the eyes anymore. At least he felt he knew where he was, despite the grimacing faces bouncing off the cracked glass. He had practiced long and hard, living among distortions.
He braced himself against the headboard of his bed, grasping the newels with both hands until his knuckles were the whitest white again and he couldn’t feel his toes anymore. They shattered into a million pieces when he stood up in the morning, as if they had spent the night in liquid nitrogen. Perhaps he forgot to turn something off. He couldn’t possibly put them back together again, any more than Humpty Dumpty, or Chicken Little the sky.
By then, his gondola was already back up at the apex again, swaying dangerously back and forth before it dropped him back between the nothingnesses of falling out of himself and not remembering how to find himself. He fused himself to the gondola and powered everything he had into his scream. The woman sitting beside him laughed so hard she dissipated into the fog and he couldn’t hold on to her anymore. He could see the tentacles embracing her, but in the end, it was the clown who was the last one to see the giant wheel.
© 2013 Peter Baltensperger
Peter Baltensperger is a Canadian writer of Swiss origin and the author of ten books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His latest book is a collection of flash fiction, Inside from the Outside, A Journey in Sudden Fiction. His work has appeared in print and on-line in several hundred publications around the world over the past several decades. Most recently, he has been published in such publications as The Big Book of New Short Horror, The Big Book of Bizarro, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Danse Macabre, Apocrypha and Abstractions, The Medulla Review, and Black Heart Magazine, among others. He writes, and has been writing all his life, because he loves to write, and because it constitutes an integral aspect of his personal quest. He makes his home in London, Canada with his wife Viki and their three cats.