“Here’s the funny thing about the world we live in now,” Erik said. “It’s terrifying.”

“Armed guards, automatic weapons, the world is hostile and that’s just surrounding this theater.

But..

We survive. All of us and all the new incarnations created by events terrible or not. We still celebrate like we did of old… so I have a story for you.”

“Have you ever going West? The wicked, wild old West. My book tour takes me all over this crazy place. The West, by far, has the biggest baddest monsters. There used to be a state named Texas in the old days. Texas was the biggest state in the nation. In many ways, other then size, Texans did everything to a super size. Texas has now been absorbed into the Southwestern Providences and those are stories for another time.”

“But… if you go all the way West and South, a bit, there is Oceanside. In Oceanside, there is a theater called the Star theater. They invited me to tell my stories during a three night event filled with carnival rides, beer and revelries.”

“Carnival rides… that’s right.”

“We all know well enough the dangers of outside events. The inherited dangers of our world. The tendency to avoid stupid, obvious situations…”

“but good ole traditions.”

“Recall the comment on monsters?” He scanned the crowd to ensure he still had them.

Day one, night one went of without a hitch. Stories, beer, laughter. Automatic weapons, ballistas on the roof and some on the ground. I’ve never seen so many, I should of known.

Day two started normally, breakfast and the hotel served a unique dish, steak and eggs. Tasted like chicken, sprinkled with fish, seperated into large strips, thick with fat. A delicacy they took very seriously.

I walked outside the hotel to see a street lined with vendors selling large slabs of white meat. Trailers with large bird-like art painted on the sides. Homemade bird toys hung over carnival games. I’ve been around a while. I’ve visited many places. This isn’t just a city festival, this is a celebration of a giant bird they called a Terrosarus.”

“The rumors, were they all true?” I asked myself.

“It was said they had 40 foot wingspan and a five-foot hooked beak used for tearing. That was the terrifyingly realistic rumors. The other rumors involved vampirism, witch doctors and religion. Those rumors were always trouble.

I finished my time in the Star theater and left the building and headed toward the hotel they had reserved for me. A broken up roadway patrolled by armed guards and high-powered rifles.

I walked along the road nearest to the businesses and homes toward a gated area.

“They sectioned off an empty part of town and fenced it in. I passed a ticket booth charging a few credits.

“I, of course, am famous so I got in free.”

“I made my way past smaller rides and screams of pleasure as baskets tossed riders back and forth. Other rides lifted the riders into the air then back down. Riders exited and new ones entered and repeat the process.

These rides were huge pre-apocalypse. Believe me, I have some bad knees, or I would of joined them.”

“Seriously!” He added as the audience murmured. “I’m not making this up.” He assures.

“Vendors sold confectioneries and meat. They had games and game callers. For old men, like me, I’ve not seen this in decades. It’s was a 4-star event.

I approached what they called the Terrosaurus Wheel.”

“Has anyone seen a Ferris wheel?” He asked the audience. The average age in the audience was on the young side. It had been a lifetime since the eruption of changes to the world.

“It’s a huge pair of wheels with large buckets welded between them. In the older days couples used to ride them and get all romantic. Kissing and all that.”

The audience laughs as Erik recreates the event with his hands.

“You see, the Ferris wheel was an icon of romance and innocence. I had a feeling this was different so, of course, I had to investigate.”

The Terrosaurus Wheel was different. There was no romance built in. The buckets were surrounded with steel fencing and a crude window built in the center. From what I could gather they entered after lifting the top. The entire ride was supported by two steel arms, on each side to hold the wheel. Those were reinforced with additional steel diagonal support runners. Those ran from the wheel axle and into the ground. At this point, this was the only ride that didn’t have a queue waiting.

There was a crowd. A large, heavily armored crowd. All milling around, waiting.

I would of had no clue if I didn’t ask but I was directed to a two-story building on the right. Several men stood on the roof. They worked on erecting long wooden poles sharpened at the top.

Now listen, I followed the pole from the building to the top of the pole, 9 foot above the building and staked to the pole was a body. My gaze panned to the other poles and five stood with a human form or some form staked to it. They were surrounded by empty poles.”

The theater audience gasp. Erik stood from the stool he sat upon. Stretched his legs then sat back down.

“I swear, this is true,” Erik said. “…but we have all seen some things, right?

I’ll start with this, this was an annual event, in a hostile world. They had few to no zombies and very little domesticated cattle. They needed something to put up there, but that’s no excuse. We still have some humanity after all we’ve been through, right?”

Some in the theater applauded lightly. A group of Taur left the theater. A few other audience members left throughout the show but Erik usually kept most in their seats.

“So I asked about the human bodies and the response was quick. The humans attached to the poles were all sick and volunteered their bodies. They were to be quarantined anyways. I was told each, of what they called The Exalted, would be memorialized forever in a ceremony that I was not invited too.

With the stakes secured and tied to something, the armed crowd cheered. I guess part one had been completed because the armed crowd began to remove their armor and attempt to blend into the rest of the carnival crowd.

So you have this giant steel wheel rolling with covered buckets that people sit in, in the middle of a town that celebrates or worships prehistoric flying birds. Human sacrifices on long stakes above everyone. What could ever happen?

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