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Life in the theme park. I wake up every morning with a smile. Sometimes I go to the funfair, sometimes I paddle in the shallow pools and eat shaved ice. Sometimes I spend all day on the roller coasters, breathless, ecstatic. I like the rides where you feel totally immersed, the ones where you forget everything. You forget yesterday and tomorrow and the ground that presses back from under your feet and all the empty space above your head. There you are, suspended between earth and atmosphere, spinning, dipping, diving, drowning. And they take your photograph for free.


I’ve been living here for years now. Decades. Once you’re inside everything’s open to everybody. If you want to walk into a different area, you just approach the turnstile and listen for it to click open. You barely feel the metal rod as it presses against your thigh. You’re not conscious of any of this because you do it so unconsciously, because we’ve all been here in the theme park for so long. We stay so long because we love it and they never ask us to leave. 


There are lots of different lands here and so much to do. There are giant cupcakes and cheese-filled corn dogs rolled in sugar. There are petting zoos and wendy houses and ghost trains, stunt shows and gun ranges and a carnival every night of the year. There are so many shops.


When I was tiny, my parents rocked me to sleep in a plastic cot, to the distant music of the carousels. I ate bowls of popcorn and candied fruit for breakfast and roamed through areas of synthetic natural beauty, lush and rich, between the mini metropolises of the park. I foraged for treats and stained my skin with melted blue slushies. I wore the clothes of different lands as I explored and uncovered each of them, and I still live here, with my suitcases of limited edition sip-cups and baby-soft bed socks made from whipped polypropylene. I am the angel of Leisureworld and I float through the park, morning and night, half-employee half-owner. I’m as welcome here as I would be in my own home, which I am, because it is.


You’d be amazed how big the park actually is. To travel from one edge to the other takes hours. I used to trip from land to land, collecting souvenirs, swimming in lakes dyed turquoise playing with the animatronic animals that spray foam by the shore. I spotted eagles through my interactive binoculars and bit squeaky seaweed rolls. I wondered if people really lived in those distant places, or if those lands were built for entertainment purposes only. The exotic corners of a world designed entirely for me. 


When I was younger, someone told me that there is no flying, that the plane windows are LED screens and you simply taxi from one hanger to the next. But I can feel the gravity lifting. I can sense the turbulence in the air. I know what it feels like to fly. People who say things like that upset the harmony of Leisureworld. Sometimes I sip radioactive green frozen margaritas from long plastic tubes and go out in search of those people, dug down in dirt ditches in wooded areas, ranting about cages and walls over stale hot dog buns and rancid sorbet. I like the romance of their little lands, their fires and their patched-up bohemian outfits, their imaginary economy which differs from our imaginary economy in some subtle ways I don't need to understand. I suggest they cut a fairy lit path, that they open a souvenir shop, but for them it’s more of an immersive experience than a formal one. Eventually I leave, tiptoeing through the forest back towards the lights, a pine wreath in my hair, sherbet on my breath.


I live in Downtown. At night I pad barefoot below silver skyscrapers and down moonlit cobbled streets in disbelief. It’s like it was designed from a dream I don’t remember having, one I never even needed to have. There are coffee shops and food markets. Bowling lanes, nightclubs and cinemas. There are fashion boutiques and galleries, bookshops, tea rooms and a winding leaf green canal. I think this part of the park started as a hotel complex which is why there are so many identical apartment blocks. The blocks are themed to give a sense of identity to each building, everything from circus big top to verdant rainforest. Beneath the embellished exteriors are floors and floors of one-room apartments, each a serene, blank space to be decorated with whatever you collect from the park. Like a hotel, everything is clean, modern and smart. And like a hotel there are rules. 


Downtown is constantly undergoing a process of regeneration. The buildings are transformed from the top down and the bottom up and side to side, over and over and over again. This is to make sure that everything is up to the standard of the clientele of Downtown, which is us, and we are grateful. Because of this constant redevelopment, you must be ready to move at a moment’s notice. It’s not uncommon to see residents pulling trailers piled high with memorabilia through the streets, carting their belongings from one block to another, stopping to drink lemonade from a vintage-style red and white paper cup or have their fingernails studded with tiny gems while they wait for their electronic keycard to update. I have moved so many times I keep all my possessions pre-loaded, living from a series of rotating cases that are stacked against the far wall of my room. I drape my cases with silk scarves and strings of lights. I burn incense and scatter fabric rose petals around my bare feet. I do not cook, clean or do my own laundry. As soon as I leave, maintenance enters my room, and when I return my apartment is ordered, spotless, and there is the faint smell of bleach in the air. 


There are stories of people whose keycards were never updated. Who cart their possessions around waiting for that green light, dreaming of the smooth click of a heavy glass door unlocking. I think about how they must drag their trailers down the dark alleys between rollercoasters and skating rinks, across pebbly service entryways and up man-made sandbanks, to sleep smiling under the stars. In all my life I’ve never come across one of these people. I’d like to, they must shine from all that starlight.


Would you like to know what I think about when I wake up?


I don’t think about anything at all.


Sunlight glows gold around the edges of the white blind. In my dim room, the air is fresh and my bed sheets are cool and crisp around my legs. I can hear the whirring of the purifier and the gentle clicking of hot water running through pipes that vein the walls. As I gently slip into consciousness my ears pick up the distant, comforting sounds of the park. The looping melody of the Helter Skelter, the screaming. 


I step outside in bare feet. My hair is brushed, it shimmers in the hot sun. My stiff body loosens as I walk, the light streaming into my eyes, and I suck the plastic straw of a large, multicoloured cup. Filtered water runs cold down my throat as I inhale hot, slightly sour air. It smells of subterranean swimming pools and rising bread dough and dark grey dust drilled out of the earth. Queues of people are starting to build, winding out from dark doorways cut into polystyrene theatre sets. When you live in the park, waiting becomes a meditative practise, a ritual. It is an experience so meticulously crafted and conceived that it becomes as immersive as the rides themselves. Here, there need be no line between existence and entertainment, no distinction between life and leisure. You come to love the waiting, sometimes the waiting is the best bit. 


I walk beneath the glass dome of an on-site shopping centre, and stop to sunbathe lazily in a prism of light. A neon cityscape is printed on hoardings that circle a central island where an escalator descends to the hidden bazaar. I set foot on the dull metal and glide down. I am wearing a plastic halo on my head.

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