The hands, oaken-knuckled, age-spotted, whisper soft, I always hold them. Even, and especially, the painfully small and sweaty ones get held. The eyes are harder to touch. Rheumy, myopic orbs searching for an answer that no one has. The little ones set below hairless brows. Others are so hollow and devoid of anything that might have ever been warm, they suck your reflection away into echoing abyss.
On boarding, they choose a sedative, or not. They must belt themselves in. There is no release, not for the body anyway. It climbs, over sixteen hundred vertical feet in two minutes. That apex, a slow approach, decelerating to an almost pause, as the lead car, then the second, and third start to descend. It doesn’t really become a plummeting dive until half the cars are over the crest. The eye can’t catch up to the passengers until the first loop. I know they are there because the acceleration of G forces lights up the monitor in front of me. Six, eight, ten times gravity. The sustained forces shut down all of their thought, feelings, and last, the autonomic systems. One by one at first, then in groups of five or ten, their vitals form chaotic symphonies of fear and anguish. Then the miracle, synchronicity. Cardiac rhythms align in one, a hammer pulping the velveteen forge of their souls. Oxygen leaves their bodies in a single, sighing zephyr. One by one, the players leave the orchestra as the monitors fall silent.
Riders return, broken marionettes, blissful dreamings painted on their features. Their relatives wait below, huddled in their brackish sorrows. I release each one to the undertakers. I look to the east. The next group is there, waiting patiently. I offer my hand.
Working third shift at Persephone’s Chariot, euthanasia coaster.