For most people a roller coaster is a slice of death-defying thrills inserted into their lives, lives which otherwise politely obey death and invite him over for tea.

For me they have always been a singularly unpleasant experience.

The first drop, when your stomach maintains a holding pattern at altitude while the rest of your body goes into freefall, has always been an intensely unpleasant experience for me. Not to the point of making me sick, usually, but to the point of making me intensely uncomfortable and wondering why anyone would willingly subject themselves to such a treatment. Coasters with no drop are better, and coasters that are all drop are rack-and-hot-coals torture. I could never be an astronaut, since zero gravity is basically like a perpetual drop-at-the-coaster-top feeling. Something tells me that even seasoned coaster junkies would have a problem with that, considering the zero-G trainer plane is called the Vomit Comet.

But the physical sensations are only a part of the picture.

For adrenaline junkies, and indeed for most normal people, roller coasters are a source of pride, a test of manhood (I know very few ladies who are coaster junkies). Turning down a ride is the equivalent of refusing to hunt a mastodon, or perhaps sitting out a football game. Not only do people poke fun at you for doing so, they have a hard time conceiving why anyone would even try to stay on the sidelines.

And yet I must declare that I am a coasterwuss, loud and proud. Or, perhaps, soft and timid as I wobble over to the nearest trash can after a 400-foot vertical drop.

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“I came from Wonderworld,” the traveler said, leaning back against the crumbling cinderblock wall while helping himself to Elmer’s bean stew.

“Wonderworld? The amusement park?” Elmer remembered the TV ads and that tagline (“The most fun on planet Earth”) from those long-ago halcyon days before the Crash.

“That’s right,” the traveler said. “It’s one of the biggest and most prosperous settlements on the coast these days.”

“You’re joking,” Elmer scoffed. “What, are the guys in costumes enough to scare away the superstitious post-Crashers, mutants, and skinmelters?”

“Laugh if you want, but it makes sense if you use your brain. Think about it: it was already walled before the Crash. Lots of weapons and trained guys for security. Lots of food, lots of water, its own power grid and staff. Big parking lots all around and nice tall roller coasters to spot and snipe anyone who looks up to no good. We beat back about an attack a week, easily.”

“So what you’re saying is it’s still the most fun on planet Earth?” Elmer said, half-serious.

“Never heard that one before,” the traveler groused, mouth full of beans. “But yeah.”

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