Rafter Fiction is short stories based on songs by Rafter. I am starting the series with the songs from his newest album, “Terrestrial Extras”. This is the song, “Breezy’s Jungle Cruise.” Buy the album here
Each of us took a hit of acid before we went on the city tour. None of us had been here before, and our parents told us that a city tour in a long double decker bus with a know-it-all guide pointing out all of the landmarks we passed was really an experience to behold. Trevor thought that the only way this could be enjoyable was to save three of the tabs we brought with us, drop them early enough so that once the wheels on the bus went round and round, we would be tripping.
We sat in the top, the open air on our faces as we rode slowly through the city. The constant honking sounded liked a symphony to me, the pitches and distances all making their mark when their time was right. I closed my eyes and felt the breeze on me, listened to the orchestra of the city, the banging and clanging, the honking and voices, turning this trip into a spiritual journey, a movement in four parts that I would never hear again.
Then the tour guide piped up, his voice tinny but booming on the speakers. “Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare to lose your life today while we drive through the worst neighborhoods. We will view the crime and poverty on our way to the cemetery where I will drop you off. But don’t worry. You’ll be dead by then. You won’t feel a thing by then. You will be ready to feed the worms by then.”
I nudged Trevor beside me. “Did you hear what he just said?”
“That we are going to have a good day? Sure. That we are going to see everything that there is to see? These lights are fucking marvelous.”
I tried to swallow my panic. I looked out at anything, at the buildings, at the traffic surrounding us, at the other passengers of the bus. There was an older couple in seats across the aisle from us, and I wanted to ask them if the tour guide really said those things or if I was hallucinating, or both. I couldn’t because Alex was between me and the aisle, and honestly, he had gotten really huge since this trip started. Like round and rotund. He was definitely growing, turning into a balloon. His stomach was blowing up more and more, and I asked him, “Are you going to escape this death by floating away? Are you going to become the next float in the Macy’s Parade?”
Alex gave me a weird look, as if I was talking nonsense and went back to whatever he was seeing.
The tour guide broke in again. “Ladies and Gentlemen. We are going to take a pit stop if you want. There is a deli on the south side of the street, and they serve up the best sandwiches, so if you brought some money, I suggest you buy yourself one. Also we will need some volunteers to stay behind because in exchange for these sandwiches, the butcher will need to cut up one or two of you to make their pastrami on rye special. It’s the best sandwich you will ever eat, so it is very much worth it. If there are no volunteers, I guess I will have to pick someone.”
“Do you hear what he just said?” I yelled at Trevor. “Did you freaking hear it?”
“Relax, man,” Alex said. “It’s all going to be okay. I think you are overreacting.”
“Listen to you, Balloon man. You can just float away toward midtown if he picks you, but I’m doomed. I am going to be pastrami. I am going to be some rich dude’s sandwich with swiss cheese, spicy mustard, and a fucking pickle, and you’re telling me to relax? Who the hell are you?”
Trevor put his arm around me. “I think you’re having a bad time.”
“I’m not! They’re going to kill us all. This is the Bus of Doom. The trip to Hell.”
I must have been a little louder because people were starting to turn toward us. Alex said, “You need to chill the fuck out, man.”
We were stopped for awhile, and I thought about getting off the tour, but I knew that the danger of being chased down the street and becoming a pastrami sandwich was just as dangerous if I got off the bus. I needed to wait it out. When the bus started moving again, I looked around to see many of the people eating sandwiches. I thought there were two or three people missing.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are planning now to turn south toward the river. There we can view how many shipping containers and dead bodies are floating around. We will be throwing a few of you in, but the rest of you are going to be heading toward the crematorium.”
Fuck, man.” I stood up. “I have to get out of here.” I headed down the aisle toward the front of the bus.
The conductor voice came through, “Please remain seated while the bus is in motion.”
“Hell no!” I yelled. “I’m not going to sit down and let you get away with this.”
The tour bus stopped. Horns started blaring all around us. “If you don’t sit down, I’m going to ask you to get off.”
I started walking toward the doors. “I have to save myself.” I expected this to be another trap, that the tour bus would start again as soon as I tried to step onto the curb, but nothing happened. I gingerly stepped down, and the doors behind me snapped shut and the motor revved again. I watched it leave the curb and lunge back into traffic. For a second I was relieved that I was going to live, but then I realized that my friends were still on there, unaware of the fate awaiting them. I started walking, not even knowing which direction I was going. I could try to get the police involved, to help save my friends, but then I thought that if I tried to warn them, they’d ignored me. The local police were probably in on the whole scheme as well. Trevor and Alex were on their own. I had to save myself.