George was sitting on a tiny grey plastic chair that vaguely resembled a fat, bunny-eared Anime cat, in the Lost & Found section of a Nagasaki theme park, thinking to himself: “Where did this go wrong?”. The area was surrounded by a flowery pink plastic fence, while the soothing sounds of non-copyrighted Pokemon Soundtrack jazz covers, made it hard for him to analyze his situation. George tried to avoid looking in the direction of the only other inmate in his brightly colored cell, a tiny Japanese girl, because she wouldn’t stop staring at him with widened eyes and one raised brow, shocked, and at least in his mind, clearly and condescendingly appalled.
“I made three mistakes”, He concluded. “The first, was the reaction “I’ve always wanted to visit Japan”, instead of “Over my dead body” when Charlotte proposed the trip. The second, was agreeing to come to this wretched hellhole, when her Business Partners invited us to tag along for opening week. But nooooo, All-inclusive tickets to the next stage in theme park evolution, the so-called “Mubi Land”, sounded much better, than the reality of a second rate Disney World and Universal mashup, that avoided license infringement by substituting every recognizable character in film history with an effortlessly veiled copy, which in most cases didn’t even offer itself to make a good pun in return. The third was not going on that stupid “Chomps” ride, which annoyed George the most, because he had never learned to swim and was therefore, more afraid of falling out of a boat on rails, then of some animatronic shark fin. Instead he had waited at the entrance, only to realize an hour later, that his girlfriend and associates must’ve taken an exit on the other side of the lake. The park’s digital tour guide app had leeched the remaining battery off of Charlottes phone after just two rides, so George knew, he had no way of contacting her and eventually found himself in the aptly named “Percy Pan’s Lost boys n’ girls” area of Mubi Land.
All he had to do now was wait. His eyes wandered, jumping from employees in anthropomorphized animal costumes to children screaming and screeching their little lungs out for meeting the former, the heroes of their favorite stories. He did not hate kids, he just hated their volume, energy and the fact that for some reason they seemed to hate him. Take that little child in the cage for example. Wait, were did she go? George managed to free himself from the tiny chair stuck to his bottom and stood up, to look past the pink fence of his, now solitary, confinement. Did her parents pick her up? No, I would’ve noticed that, he thought, scanning the crowd in search of the minuscule girl. He eventually noticed her bright yellow jacket in between push chairs, exhausted parents and other uncontrollable thumping and hopping children. She just snuck past a barrier and moved towards the entrance of the Henry Powder Magic Ride. He shook his head: “That sneaky little rat.”, and sat back down. Still looking in the direction of the ride but he couldn’t see her past the flowery fence. Instead he saw the actual ride, a Roller Coaster with at least one, two, omg…. six loops. Just thinking about it made him dizzy. He jumped back up again and was barely able to catch a flash of her jacket, vanishing in the tunnel entrance. George started running, hopping over the rosy barricade, and towards Henry Powder until he hit the end of the line. He pushed himself past angry park guests, who were trying hard to pierce his conscious with angry looks. His thoughts were with the little girl, who as he determined, inspecting the ride for a second time from a still safe but threateningly minimized distance, would not die instantly but a in small bursts, breathing a little slower with every subsequent looping, until her flickering light would extinguish somewhere between number four and six. “Out, out brief candle.” George corrected his head as if to toss the sinister thoughts away and vanished in the darkness of the tunnel.
Working his way through the crowd, he managed to spot the little girl, which stood in front of the rail, crying, while one of the park workers tried to calm her. When the tiny Japanese noticed her savior, she immediately stopped the water works and whispered something into the Service persons ear. George was so relieved he wasn’t too late that he just grinned and waved. The sea of other guests parted for him and he finally reached her. Now, he would offer to bring her back to the Lost and Found but before he could find out whether his English was of any use, the little girl and him were pushed into the front seats of the Henry Powder ride. Even in hindsight, George was unable to explain his lack of resistance, and the particularly naïve belief, that they were lead out of the roller coaster, instead of being forced to, literally, sit through it. At last, the metal “Cluck” of the safety bars locking in position, substituted the comic relief “ding” of his epiphany, pulled George back into the reality of gravity, and made him realize that he might soon defy the latter through involuntary acceleration. The little girl next to him poked him in the side and gave a thumbs up. “You told that guy I’m your dad, right?”, George realized and angrily mumbled something about being tricked by an eight year old. The girl just grinned at him with closed eyes and extended her hand under the safety bar. ”Masako.” He calmed down a bit, shook the hand of the treacherous little devil and sighed “George”, right as their car set into motion. Slowly at first, they passed a few screens explaining the origin story of Henry Powder and his days at wizard school. Speed increased as voices of different Mages chanted incantations through the speakers at the tunnel exit. Back in daylight George saw all six loops lurking like giants over Masako and him, as they went up on a rail, parallel to what he considered their impending and inevitable doom. Ok, maybe that’s an overreaction but he really did not have the stomach for what easily could’ve functioned as an astronaut training facility. “Should we survive this, I’d like to have a little chat with your parents about military school.” Masako ignored him. She was too busy enjoying the view from the highest point of the park, covering yachts and cruise liners, in the now distant harbor, with her thumb. George closed his eyes before their way down “Of course adoption is also an option. So you can fool another stranger with your childish innoCEEEEEEEE…“ He got too much air into his, now wide open mouth, to finish that sentence. Too much speed to finish that thought, any thought really. He was a nervous talker and wanted to curse and shout, to get at least some of the ecstasy out. And he succeeded, in a way. Despite reaching the top of the first loop, he was miraculously able to aim the projectile vomit away from Masako, and in response rewarded by her deep and dirty giggling. By the second loop his stomach was completely empty and his painful groaning covered by her high pitched cheers. George passed out somewhere between three and four, only to notice some food was still left, when he snapped back, right in time for number five. Masako was busy screaming her little lungs out, while waving uncontrollably the entire way through. She was having a blast. In the last looping even George was able to articulate his feelings, their voices merging in a mighty roller coaster roar.
Back on solid ground, he noticed that Masako had trouble walking straight and looked a bit pale too. “We should head back but you gotta drink something first.” She nodded and he picked her up on his shoulders, carrying her to the nearest of numerous themed restaurants, Indian James. He ordered a virgin Gin Tonic for her and nice glass of Whiskey for himself. For relaxing times. They sat for a while, recovering, until Masako suddenly put down her drink and pointed outside. She scouted a pretty European girl in the otherwise mostly Asian crowd. George’s eyes widened, “Hey, you found them! That’s my girlfriend.”. Masako sighed and looked almost as if she regretted her decision to show him. He noticed, paid for their drinks, shouldered her again and hurried outside. Charlotte and her business partners were already at the next corner. George turned to his right and saw the disappointment in Masako’s face, longingly watching Henry Powders loops for the last time. “You know…” He sat her down and kneeled to her height “They can wait a little while longer. I still have no clue how much you actually understand but… wanna go again?” Her smile needed no translation.
Julian was listening to Air – Alone in Kyoto and the entire set of The Avalanches – Live at The Cornerstone while writing the second half of this story.