Tuesday, December 15, 2009

White Fence

At the south end of the clearing, the giant evergreens climb up, masking the mountain which the hillside inevitably slopes up to form. To the north, the gold rush remnants of the town center can be seen past the mostly dry riverbed and the railway, which for safety reasons is encased in a skeletal frame of steel girders. Both rail and river run east past the restaurant whose ornate tables and brick walls adorn the clearing's ridges, and west along a dark hiking trail, which appears to gradually wind upwards into the hills.

We finish our breakfast, and I start for the tunnel which leads under the train tracks and into the town. But Carl calls me back.

"Hey! What are you going that way for?"

I look back confused. "I thought we were here for the rides... that new mine car one is supposed to be pretty good."

"No way, those rides are just... too tacky. Not worth the trip."

I'm a little annoyed, as I've never seen the rides myself. This is my first time in this popular ghost-town-turned-theme park, and tacky or not, I'd like to at least experience it. "Then... why did we drive out here so early?"

"We're here to see White Fence."

"Well, look - can we check out the town for an hour, and then see White Fence?"

Carl rolls his eyes, and hurries me along. "Dude! It's only showing until ten. That only gives us a half hour to get out there..."

"Okay, okay..." I turn back and follow the others, as they hop across the stones which pepper the riverbed's shallow stream. "But... well, what is White Fence, anyway?"

Carl sighs. "You haven't heard? It's like, this big fence. And it's painted ALL white."

I stop on a large boulder, and look at him cockeyed. "You're kidding, right?"

"Dude, it's supposed to be really cool." Carl follows the others up the small ridge on the opposite bank, and walks between two of the girders onto the train tracks.

"Christ. All right, I'm coming." I run up the hill after him, and through the same passage. But as I land on the tracks, I find myself alone in the train's strange open tunnel.

I look around for Carl, but neither him nor the others are anywhere in sight, not inside of the tunnel, in the woods just to the south, or the backsides of the buildings to the north. I run down the tunnel, searching - but as I pass the next girder, the scene outside changes, to a vast, painted desert. One eyebrow raised, I pass the next girder, to see a bustling iron city, belching smog into the air.

Before long I realize why this town has become such a tourist destination - thanks to the genius engineering of this tunnel, it's accessible from just about any point in the country. I run down the hall, scanning each possible exit, looking for one worthy of exploration - and forgetting all about Carl and his stupid White Fence.

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