for Josiah

I moved forward onto the conveyor belt. There was no choice; the other human cattle behind me were pressing forward en masse, their eyes refusing any contact. Isolated in the crowd, we moved forward as one towards our destiny. Like so many lemmings, we crowded forward, never knowing what we would find at the end.

The belt began to descend. I toyed with the idea of running back through the others, knocking them aside like so many silly bowling pins, to then leap to safety above. Vainly I urged my feet to go, but I stayed as if planted in my spot.

I considered leaping off the side, over the restraints, to my death below, to die quickly from the fall rather than endure this slow descent into who knows what. As we crept agonizingly towards the depths of this alien building, this monstrous creation of shiny metal and glass and plastic, with strange plants waving in the breeze, and unintelligible alien sounds (music, one supposes) wafting through the air like aging machines quietly dying an ignoble death, all hope left me. There was no way back except forward.

Darkness sets in. Not total, but enough so that I have to consciously control the urge to scream. The maddening noise is diminished as well, but a sinister light shines malevolently somewhere below. My heart is pounding in my chest. The conveyor seems to grab at my feet, to rip me to shreds, to attack my very soul.

Deeper into the bowels we go. I begin to border on hysteria. Panic truly sets in. I feel pressed upon, surrounded by the undead, closed in on a trip to nowhere. The smell of my fellow beings on this unholy device is faint, but noticeable. They are sweating as I am. Are they also fearful? Or merely aware of being packed in like sardines, and out of control, being pulled, inch by horrible inch, down, down, down?

As we near the bottom, we are again bathed in light. Suddenly, as we near the end of the trip, I see it all. There is something there at the bottom that will eat us! Not every one, but some, and somehow, I sense, I know that I am slated to be a feast. The beast grows nearer. The people around me press closer, as if they, too, sense something. As the jaws of death loom nearer, I know that I must at least try. I cannot see what is beyond, but people in front of me tense, jump, and somehow survive the landing in that alien world. Death moves closer, closer, closer...

But the fates are fooled, and somehow I have survived! But what fate awaits me, here on my foray for shirts in the Rich's Bargain Basement?

Now I know why my 2 year-old son hates escalators.

Last updated: 2 Apr 1994

Copyright 1989, 1994 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

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