From The Golden Dragon and The Tunnel of Doom, We Were Alive (Short Fiction Story)

Author’s Note: This is a short story I wrote based on a dream I had. It takes place in the same universe as a short story I published in 2022, entitled “One Life.” I’m shy about my fiction and don’t usually publish it, but if a dream contains a full story, as last night’s did, it’s easy to just bang it out and the structure and content is not really my responsibility anyway. I do not support the structure or content of this story. I just had fun writing it. You might have fun reading it. 

The Old York under-rail had a station at the hotel. We took the escalators up three floors to the lobby, a massive room with a fountain which appeared to have been pulled out of a casino in Old Vegas and moved here, but was no doubt a recreation.

My comrade and I checked in together at the Golden Dragon Casino Resort and asked for rooms on the same floor. As it turned out, we couldn’t even get rooms in the same tower. I was on floor 502 of tower 2, he on floor 307 of tower 4. We agreed to drop our bags and freshen up a bit in our rooms and regroup in the lobby near the fountain in 37 minutes – 10 AM sharp.

The hotel was built about 15 years ago by the Chinese shortly after Maoborg declared the air was clean and the people of Neo-Shanghai were free to “wonder the realm and do business in a socialist Chinese manner.” It was not quite filthy and and not quite dilapidated. It took the elevator nearly 90 seconds to reach the 502nd floor, as I held my nose and popped my ears, I marveled at a cockroach crouched in the corner, bracing itself against the pressure change. When we reached the destination and the doors opened, the bug did not move.

I lugged my luggage to my low-numbered room, which was something of a hike. My keycard didn’t seem to work, the light blinking red and the handle refusing to budge. I loathed the thought of returning to the lobby to get a new card. However, after an unknown number of swipes, the light clicked green and the handle turned.

I threw my bags on the floor in the entryway. The room was fittingly grimy but quite spacious. Big bed, nice sitting and smoking area. The bathroom was also spacious. The maintenance neglect was perhaps ill-suited to something that had been designed to feel luxurious, with decadent wallpaper browned, golden synth-wood cracked, and once elegant neo-wool carpet stained with whisky, coffee, semen, and such fluids. But I found the vibe perfectly suited for my purposes. I took a quick shower, pulled on the casual clothes at the top of my suitcase, and ensured I had my keycard and heldheld electronic device in the pockets of my fashionably cut but un-ironed trousers, and headed back to the fountain to meet my comrade.

My comrade was waiting for me. He was less impressed with the hotel than I was, and appeared to have skipped the shower.

I left the Mega system as soon as it was legal to do so, and never had any desire to return. My comrade, a childhood friend, had remained living in Mega 1, making only small outings to various newly developed areas outside of the Mega System. I invited him on this trip to Old York to free him of the psychological chains of the Mega Bureaucracy. It was possible I would destroy him in the process, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

“This place is fucking filthy,” he said.

“I like it,” I replied. “You’re just getting out of the Mega mindset, the New World is going to take some getting used to.”

“It doesn’t feel new. It feels old and shitty.”

“That, comrade, is the paradox. Let’s hit the craps table?”



We each got a hundred satoshis worth of chips at the cashier, and headed out onto the floor. My comrade’s eyes were wide, looking across the game room. The floor, filled mostly with Chinamen, smoking, along with a sprinkling of white tourists, went as far as the eye could see.

“They just let you smoke?” my comrade asked.

“Of course. It’s a casino. And it’s Chinese.”

Having recently taken up the great habit after exiting Mega 1, he lit a cigarette with a boyish grin, as if he was doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing.

We wandered for a bit, taking in the scene, before zooming in on the craps table. I did alright. My comrade not so well. He didn’t seem to understand the game, though in theory, that should not have been a barrier to victory. When I was shooting, I was giving him signals, and he was ignoring them, losing all of his money.

“Fuck this,” he eventually said, outraged. “I’m hungry.”


When we exited the gaming floor, restaurants were nearly as prevalent as watch shops, though it was mostly cheap Chinese cuisine. I insisted that we wander for a while, until we entered an open area with a painted ceiling meant to look like a clear blue sky. Over a balcony, I could see an Old French style restaurant along one of the indoor canals that ran through the Golden Dragon and connected it with other Casino-Resorts owned by the Old York Sino Gaming Development Company (OYSGDC). We made our way down a labyrinthine set of escalators and manual staircases to reach the entrance of the open-air restaurant, where a pretty Sinoese girl dressed in a French maid costume stood and looked at us blankly, before staring off in a different direction.

“Ni hao,” I said. She then snapped back into reality, and pushed a button on her electronic nametag. The black nametag smiled in red and in cheery female robot voice said “Hello, I am Ying-Wan. Please follow me to be seated, where you will enjoy drinking liquids and eating solid foods.” The message was then repeated in Mandarin and Cantonese. I nodded to the girl and she led us to a very poorly located table. I pointed over to an open table along the canal, and she pursed her lips and took us over there, handing us menus. Before she could escape, I ordered two cheapish (but not too cheap) glasses of whisky.

The canal was nice. The water was clear. The blue paint underneath it looked cheap, the fake blue of the fake canal matching the fake blue of the fake sky. But it was nice. I thought it was nice. People were riding on gondolas in the water, drinking wine. Around the canal were shops, most of them luxury Sinoese brands. Many of them had Italian names. Somehow, after all of those years in the Mega Cities while the air out here was unbreathable, and the flow of Italian luxury goods had largely ceased, the Chinese maintained the idea that luxury brands should probably have Italian-sounding names and be branded in Latin script.

I ordered a cheese platter and some kind of ciabatta bread sandwich which I could only recognize from a photo given that the menu was entirely in Sinoese. My comrade was flipping through the menu, confused and beginning to look frustrated, when I suggested we share the cheese plate and he get the same sandwich as me. With relief, he agreed.

We sat together taking in the surroundings in silence before the surprisingly impressive cheese platter arrived.

“We’re gonna have to play blackjack,” my comrade explained. “That craps shit is just a scam.”

“I won though.”

“But it’s just random chance. Blackjack is a game of skill.”

I declined to argue the point, though I did have various arguments against both assertions, and instead agreed that we should indeed play blackjack after our meal. I was grateful he declined to complain more about the status of the Golden Dragon, and instead had nice words about the vibes of the recreated French (or Venetian?) village we were dining in.

“I kinda wanna ride on the gondolas,” he said.

“The gondolas will take us to some other casino floor, where you may find more luck.” I agreed. “It’s a brilliant plan.”

Our sandwiches arrived and we both scarfed them down. Perhaps we’d been unaware of how in need of carbohydrates our bodies were after all of that travel. The bullet train from Mega 1 was 120 minutes to the first Old York stop, and the underground another 40 minutes to the Golden Dragon. On the long tide, we sat in the cheap seats where we didn’t get a complementary meal.

“I’m gonna get another one of these sandwiches,” I declared. My comrade nodded, communicating that he would do the same. After finishing them, I withdrew my handheld electronic device and prepared to pay the bill, and my comrade suggested one more whisky. Good idea.


Leaving the restaurant, a Russian security guard in a black suit (with a black tie) who spoke some English explained to us that in order to get to the gondola boarding station, we would have to go through an agonizing trip way up and way back down again. When I stared in confusion at his directions, he said: “very easy, my friend: go up this escalator, turn right, go twenty meters, go up next escalator, turn left, go ten meters. Go up that escalator, turn left and then right, and then big escalator take you back down three floors to gondola.”

I turned to my comrade, who simply squinted at me. We would give it a try.

The layouts of these hotels were purposefully convoluted, in order to force the guest to walk past as many shops as possible. We were of course disinterested in shopping, as we had not begun winning yet, so it was a chore to make it through the tedious dungeon. However, the shopping area was decidedly more fresh than the hotel region of the resort, and the stroll was not decidedly unpleasant. We asked for directions along the way from people who looked likely to speak English, and eventually made it to the top, where a large escalator would take us back to the bottom.

“I gotta piss,” my comrade declared.

“I’ll wait for you here.”

While I was waiting, an obese white woman, presumably from Mega 1, attempted to go down the wrong escalator. I said something to her and she ignored me, so I moved to try to stop her. However, it was too late. Her flip-flop got caught in the ribbed metal of the escalator, and she went tumbling down. It was a horrific scene. Due to the woman’s sheer mass, she was able to bowl over several Chinamen who were ascending the escalator in the correct direction, with others managing to make it out of her path by lifting themselves up on the handrails. None of the Chinamen were seriously damaged, but the obese white woman rolled all the way to the bottom, and was surely dead.

A Russian security guard came over to me. “You wait here, they check camera, make sure you not push that bitch. I know you not push her, I see you try to help fat bitch, but China always check camera.”

I nodded in understanding as my comrade returned from the latrine. All sorts of people were gathered around by now, looking at the scene of carnage. The Chinamen who had been victims of the rolling woman were examining their injuries. One was aggressively licking his finger and attempting to remove a scuffing from his very expensive calf-skin loafers.

“What happened?” my comrade asked.

“That fat woman down there tried to board the wrong escalator, and tripped and rolled all the way to the bottom.”

“Shit. Is she dead?”

“One would have to assume so.”

“Damn,” he said, suppressing a giggle. Although I was still a bit shocked by the scene, I could see how someone who had not witnessed the horror of it firsthand would be somewhat amused by the idea of an obese woman tumbling down a three storey escalator to her doom.

Out of respect for the deceased, I noted in her defense: “these Sinoese escalators are on the opposite sides to the Mega system.”

“Yeah, but they’re marked with these big red and green lights,” he replied.

“True,” I said, “but a tragedy nonetheless.”

At this point, my comrade could no longer contain himself, and burst out laughing. He literally threw back his head, laughing. Just then, the Russian returned.

“You’re cleared,” he said. “Forgiveness please, I see you not do it, but Chinese always check camera. You go gondola, yes?”

My comrade and I both nodded, him trying to contain his laughter. The Russian however was unoffended by the laughter, and winked at my comrade.

“Okay, friends. Well, the up escalator will be off for a while, but the down one is still running,” then, remembering that he is supposed to say this to everyone under every circumstance, he said: “good luck.”


As we rode the slow-moving escalator downward to the site of the recent death, we watched the obese body being carried away in a large wheelbarrow. By the time we reached the ground, the hubbub had subsided. A fat woman probably did not die on one of these escalator every day, but I supposed it happened at least once per week. There was clearly a protocol in place to deal with this situation.

When the domes were opened, massive numbers of Chinese left to cover the earth and engaged in commerce according to Neo-Maoist socialist principles. More than fifteen years later, many Westerners from the Mega Cities were just now coming out of their shell to see the new world, which had been fully cleared of the poisonous gas created by the genetically-engineered bacteria that was released to cleanse the world of microplastic. The first whites out were the Appalachians, who, it was revealed, had been plotting for generations to escape the Megas and declare Appalachian independence from Globo-Mega using stockpiles of buried Kalashnikovs. (Their rebellion was quite successful. And bloody.) But most whites took their time in exiting the Megas. Even now, it was estimated that only 40% of whites had traveled outside the Mega system since the great reopening of 2088. It was no surprise that humans accustomed to such sterile comfort would regularly meet strange demise in a world where safety was by no means a top priority.

My comrade and I stood for several minutes observing the ground floor scene. Everything seemed to be a faithful recreation of Paris or Venice or whatever, save the Chinese paper lanterns that hung along the broadways on either side of the canal. The gondola drivers (whatever they may be called) wore the classic red and white striped shirts, but also conical bamboo hats. Far from taking away from the authenticity of the historic recreation, the Sinoese elements added what reconstructionists had labeled “neo-authenticity.”

The gondolas were free to use (because anywhere you went, you were going to be spending money with the Old York Sino Gaming Development Company), and you could ride them through several different casinos. This was clear from the signs, which otherwise did not make any sense. The sign for “Hollywood Town Golden Nugget Casino Village” pointed in both directions, apparently implying you could ride the gondola in either direction and end up there.

“Hollywood Town is a bit grimier, but they have a room where they’ll use a single deck for blackjack,” I explained.

“I’m down,” my comrade said, with moderate enthusiasm. Thus, we boarded the gondola, headed in one direction or the other.


The ride was chaotic. Crashes between gondolas were a regular occurrence, though they were lined with rubber and moving so slowly that this did not present a problem. What did present a problem was white tourists standing up on the gondola and hitting their heads on the bridges which passed over the canal. We witnessed such events twice, once with a middle-aged man falling into the canal and having to be fished out by irritated Chinamen. “You no up top, stay low, you no make trouble.”

In a brilliant piece of innovation, there were complimentary drinks gondolas, staffed by sexy Sinoese women in traditional Ming garb, with which you could request your own gondola cross past so you could be served free cheap red wine. My comrade and I insisted that our driver pull up beside these wine distributors every time. My comrade asked every server for her Chatter Box ID, with each answering with a smile: “sorry, no allow.”

As we rode along the canal, we saw the same shops over and over again, but the scenery changed, demonstrating different recreations of various European locales, including London, Monaco, and (surprisingly) Hungary. The only thing that remained the same were the red paper lanterns hanging along the broadways. I was tempted to propose we disembark and take a stroll through Budapest Town and grab a vodka and a sausage, but was aware that my comrade was feeling a strong itch to win back what he’d so pitifully lost at the craps table.

When the gondola entered Old Hollywood, it was clear that it was not intended to be a true recreation of Hollywood. Based on the photos and video I’d seen of real Hollywood, creating an authentic (or neo-authentic) recreation of the town would have been a poor decision anyway. The broadways were lined with the Hollywood stars and palm trees (which appeared to be authentic living trees), there were neon lights and comedic “liquor store” signs (which, ironically, appeared to be signs for actual liquor stores) but the buildings were all brick-faced, looking much more tasteful than the cheapish architecture of the real Hollywood Blvd. It looked like some concept artist had mixed various elements of Old Hollywood with the set of Guys and Dolls. “It’s better we remember it this way,” I thought. “LA architecture was so trashy.”

“This casino is fucking huge,” my comrade exclaimed, wiping a drip of complimentary red wine from his chin.

“Technically, these are all different casinos. We left the Golden Dragon when it stopped looking all Frenchy-Italiany.”

“So they’re all just connected?”

“All the ones owned by the Old York Sino Gaming Development Company are connected, yes. It’s a three square kilometer area.”

“Jeez. Chinese people are fucking insane.”

“Insane awesome. Are you not enjoying yourself?”

“I’m having a fucking blast. Or I will be, once I start winning. This place is amazing. It’s like the Cartoon World in District 9, but, like…”

“Not for babies?”

He laughed in agreement

The “Cartoon World” theme park was formerly Disneyland. Ownership of all of Disney’s assets was ceded to the United Baptist Front (UBF) in 2042 after a successful class action lawsuit determined that Disney had purposefully converted hundreds of thousands of children to homosexuality, further decimating the human birthrate during a period when the species had lost 95% of its population to a toxic gas created by a genetically-engineered plastic-eating bacteria. Although the UBF left some of Disneyland in tact, they were believed to  have gone a bit overboard in their “heterosexualization” project. In 2053, the park was closed by the Mega authorities for 18 months after it was determined that the UBF was involved in a propaganda effort to encourage child marriage. A front-page story on Mega 1 Times declared that UBF had become “the reverse Disney.” When the park was forced into restructuring while closed, UBF was ordered by an impartial third party (accused of being bribed by the Sino-Socialist Empire) to work with Mega authorities to create “a heterosexual experience that did not overly compel children into certain life choices.” It turned out that both parties were so stubborn that the only things allowed were rather dull. Many believed that the “impartial third party” had purposefully neutered Cartoon World in order to promote the Chinese-owned “Ultra Funland” chain of theme parks. Unfortunately, those parks were all forced to shut down in 2058 due to rampant and ridiculous embezzlement by shareholders.

“Let’s disembark here?” I asked my comrade.

“Looks good.”

I signaled to the driver and he dropped us at the next stop, which happened to be in front of a recreation of the Chinese Theatre. I looked down at the star upon which I was standing and it read “Jackie Chan.” I would later realize that between 10% and 15% of the stars on the broadway were dedicated to Jackie Chan.

We stopped at a corner where a man dressed as the Terminator was standing around for photos. Once again, the signs did not make sense, with the sign for the casino pointing both forward and to the right. There was no way the casino floor was on the main broadway, so I led my friend down the hall, into the depths of Old Hollywood.


The Hollywood Casino floor was as I remembered it: much the same as any of the other gaming floors, but a bit more shabby. There were a few reminders that you were in the Hollywood Casino, and not some other casino, including a large “Hard Rock Cafe” in the center of the floor.

“We have to get to a backroom if we want the single deck bj table,” I said.

“Single dick bj table is where I want to go,” my comrade joked, hilariously.

I tried to use the Hard Rock Cafe to orient myself, but due to the sheer size of the gaming floor, this was a true impossibility. Instead, I simply wandered around the edge of the floor, knowing that I would eventually come to the “VIP Lounge.” As I wandered, I explained to my friend: “I’m really good at this game, so basically, you’re just going to follow my lead, and we’re both going to walk out of here a lot richer.”

“Got it,” he replied confidentially as he grabbed a glass of champagne from one of the traveling champagne distributors.

Finally, we reached the entrance to the VIP lounge, where they would have the single deck tables. A large Russian with literal gold teeth stood guard. It was unclear if he was intended to be a reference to a Bond Villain, or if he was just like that. “Hello, boys,” he said. “VIP rules, you buy 10,000 satoshi of coins at entry. You also have free cigar. Very nice cigar.”

There was no way we were going to need to spend 20,000 satoshis to walk out of this room with a fortune. I was simply too good. I began speaking to him in Russian, making some comments about the war I knew he would be emotionally moved by and then explaining that I was a very high roller, and then winking. He winked back and told the Chinese cashier “they VIP, big spend, bypass entry minimum.” The Chinese cashier barely nodded, and the Russian said: “do not forget free cigar. Very nice cigar.”

We grabbed our very nice cigars from the cigar station and a sexy Sinoese girl dressed like Marilyn Monroe lit them with a torch. We bought 1,000 satoshis worth of chips each.

We entered the danger zone. We would leave with enough money to party like it was 1999.


During the first ten hands, we were up approximately 15%. As the waitresses continued to serve copious complementary whisky-sodas, my comrade got it in his head to start making his own moves. The results were poor, and he whined.

“Just follow the plan, comrade,” I said comfortingly.

“Okay, okay, I just… the whisky got to my head a bit, I was feeling froggy.”

“I understand, but we need to win if we are going to do this town tonight like I plan to do it.”


What followed was a winning streak that was like a tornado tearing through a trailer park. I never count my money at the table, but it was clear we were together up to around a quarter million satoshis. Around 90 minutes into our winning streak, the same Bond Villianesque Russian came over and tapped me on the shoulder. Speaking Russian, he said: “my friend, I’m deeply sorry, but greedy Chinese say you must leave VIP room. You are winning too strongly. You come back tomorrow, I try to get you back in. I put free room on your card. Also have many free dinners, good at any hotel.”

I wasn’t bothered. Our winning streak had amounted to a heist. I was surprised it took so long for the shoulder tap to arrive.

We cashed our huge piles of chips and at the Russian’s direction, we grabbed another nice cigar on the way out. My comrade puffed, giggling and jittering with excitement and joy.

As we exited the VIP as very rich men, we came across a recreation of the Scarface “The World is Yours” fountain.

“This town…”, I began

“…Is one big pussy just waiting to get fucked,” my comrade finished.


“Are you ready to leave the casino complex, comrade? Are you ready to drench yourself in the succulent juices of the beautiful hell that was once New York City?”

“I’m ready. Let’s move.”

“Moving” was easier said than done. The casino complex was designed in such a way as to prevent you from ever being able to leave. You were supposed to lose your money gaming, or spend it at the shops. There was no reason for you to leave. This was at least part of the reason that none of the signs made any sense (although Chinese signs are not generally known for making sense).

However, with the help of several helpful Russian security guards, we made it out into the open air. It tasted like chalk. Sweet, sweet chalk. Taxis were lined up across the street. The street, of course, was yet another barrier, intended to keep us in the casino complex.

“Let’s just run across the street. I don’t see any cops,” I said.

My comrade, now fully drunk enough to do virtually anything funny, laughed and nodded.

Several horns honked, but we made it to the taxi stand alive. I tapped on the window of the driver in front of the line, and said “meter?” The Sinoese driver of course pointed to the meter and said “no meter, no work, cannot. Where you go?”

“Coney Island,” I said.

“Twenty satoshi.”


“Okay, okay. We go.”

I turned to my comrade: “It should be 5, but it’s okay.”


After we left the modernized section of the city, crossing the New Brooklyn Bridge, the taxi ride was enough to pull my comrade out of his joyful drunkenness into a state of mesmerized horror. Having barely left the Mega System in his life, seeing the way civilization was rebuilding itself on the outside shocked him. There was every sort of degeneracy one could imagine. It was churches, bars, gambling halls, and liquor stores, mixed with noodle shops, vintage clothing stores, and cat cafes, lodged in between massive new-build Chinese high-rises that could topple over at any time. There was very little left of the old architecture, which was already in bad shape as a result of shady landlords refusing to do basic maintenance long before it was abandoned for 75 years. Seeing the old buildings that still stood was like witnessing dinosaurs. There were hookers and drug dealers everywhere, men in modern business suits weaving in between them, but no homeless bums to be seen, given that the Old York authorities were very strict about such things.

For better or worse, it was not just the casino complex that was owned by the Chinese. Because the Chinese were the first to aggressively exit the domes when the gas finally cleared (and presumably because they are simply very aggressive businessmen), they bought up virtually the entire city from the deed owners (descendants of the original owners), most of whom had no interest in leaving the Mega Zone any time soon. The legal system that they established looked anarchic to an outside observer, given that it was clear that there was no law against (or at least no enforcement of law against) prostitution, drugs, or traffic violations, but to the trained eye, there was order. The streets were grimy, but there was no trash. Though a newcomer wouldn’t know it, you could walk the streets at all hours of the day without fear of violence or theft. It was strictly organized chaos. Whereas murder had been the leading cause of death in New York City before the gas, in what we now called “Old York,” the leading cause of death was jaywalking.

The taxi driver sped through the Brooklyn chaos like a true madman, rhythmically honking his horn at a steady pace. At one point, he almost hit a midget dressed in a tuxedo, but the little guy managed to dive and roll to safety. We could faintly hear him screaming profanities as the driver continued at his maniacal pace, weaving between luxury cars, ancient electric bikes, and cyber-rickshas.

At several points on the journey, I wanted to tell the driver to stop and let us out so I could show my comrade various elements of this burgeoning new world which was rising from the ashes of complete doom. But no. We would reach our destination, and he would see the craziest place on the North American continent. If it destroyed his soul, then his soul was not meant for this new world, and he should have stayed in the Mega. If it did not destroy his soul, he would be hardened, born again, and he would be able to survive out here in the wilderness of the reconstruction.

Finally, the taxi sped to a halt. The driver pointed to a psychedelic nightmare circus, where we could see huge colorful tents with rollercoasters rising over them, and at its peak, the rebuilt ferris wheel, which was three times bigger than the original. He said: “Coney Island.” I scanned his QR code with my handheld electronic device, paying the unfair fare (no tip), and we exited the cab.


Our first encounter with a Coney Island denizen was a man in a clown costume on stilts breathing fire in front of the entrance. I scanned his QR code, and donated four satoshis. I was a very rich man, and could afford to be generous.

I said: “I think we should probably do a few shots before we enter the Tunnel of Doom. That taxi ride might have sobered you up a bit too much. This is going to be a very intense experience.”

My comrade agreed.

At the gates was a line of ancient Volkswagen buses, which had the sides opened up and turned into bars. They were all run by scummy Armenians for some reason. I picked one where no people were, and sat down on a stool, motioning for my comrade to do the same. I ordered two shots of tequila. We downed them and I ordered two more. Then a third round. The shots were exorbitantly priced.

I looked at my comrade and explained that if he needed to vomit, he should do so now. He said he was fine, let’s go.

I took the lead as we entered the Tunnel of Doom, which was a 50 meter covered tunnel that led into the guts of the Coney Island circus. To enter, you walked through the open mouth of a clown. The tunnel was filled with flashing neon lights and naked women painted-up in light-reflective body oil dancing in cages. Juggling clowns, cigarette-smoking apes, and bearded, dancing men in top hats twirling canes roamed freely. I scanned several of the QR codes of these various freaks, giving generous tips, as my comrade was wide-eyed, barely blinking, reminding himself to put one foot after the other.

Exiting the tunnel, we walked onto the main drag of Coney Island Circus, a straightaway to the plastic-free ocean, which was lined with a boardwalk. The drag was lined with tents and circus games. The tents served various purposes. Most of them were bars, clubs, or brothels, but some had stranger purposes. I told my comrade that a beer may be in order, and we entered a green and yellow bar-tent called “The Pigsty.”

In The Pigsty, the nubile waitresses were all topless, wearing bikini bottoms and ultra-high heels. And pig masks. They were all wearing pig masks. We sat at one of the standing tables, and a pig-masked topless waitress appeared. It creates an interesting psychological phenomenon to have a topless woman in a pig mask addressing you. You are torn between wanting to stare at her breasts and wanting to stare at the pig mask, wondering what is behind it.

I ordered two Tsingtao beers and a large bucket of popcorn and scanned the QR code on her chest, above her perfectly shaped breasts.

“Do you think there was acid in those tequila shots?” my comrade asked, his first words since entering the Tunnel of Doom.

“No,” I said, but then remembering the strange price, added: “maybe.”

My comrade looked around the dimly lit room, absorbing the house music set to circus-music themed beats, staring at breasts and pig masks.

“Even if there was acid in those tequila shots, I can assure you that these waitresses are wearing pig masks,” I said. “If that’s what you were wondering.”

“Why?” he asked.

“It’s the same reason any of this exists,” I said. “The Mega Bureaucracy crushed human freedom by creating a sterile universe of safety and strict, sexless orderliness. When people were finally released from the domes, they wanted to be free. And they had the opportunity for ultimate freedom. The Chinese owned this place, and didn’t really care what people did, as long as they didn’t cause trouble. So people manifest ultimate freedom. Ultimate freedom, it turns out, can take very weird shapes.”

“Is this… good?” he asked.

“Obviously, naked waitresses in pig masks in a circus tent is definitely not good. I don’t think by any definition of the word ‘good,’ you could say this is good.”

“So… why?”

“I’m glad you ask, because I’ve thought about this a lot. The restrictiveness of the Mega System was also not good. What they did, in creating such a soullessly strict system of order was make this kind of lunatic disorder inevitable. This is the rebellion against Mega. Eventually, people will rebel against this, and humanity will once again reach a balance. Humans always seek balance, but like the tightrope walkers you saw on the way in, balance is something you have to work at if you want to get good at it.”


“You saw all of those churches on the way in, I’m sure. People are already seeking out old systems of order. Systems which provide freedom without chaos.”

His jaw still open, my comrade nodded, perhaps beginning to understand the purpose of our adventure.


Back on the main drag, we headed for the Boardwalk. My comrade was starting to loosen up again, to move more naturally. I was pleasantly surprised.

“We should find some girls,” his newly loosening body said.

“Indeed we should. The Boardwalk awaits.”

As we walked under the massive ferris wheel, we both stopped and looked up at it. This wonder of Chinese engineering could collapse at any time, killing thousands. But what a wonder it was.

“I’m not getting on that shit,” my comrade said.

“I’m glad to hear it. The line is like an hour long.”

We continued down the drag, with clowns, bearded men in top hats twirling canes, and women in various states of undress urging us into various tents of iniquity. Many of them had wild animals, some uncaged. One man in a top hat had a tiger on a leash. Just a leash, like a dog. People were keeping a wide berth of the animal, and I noted that this was an odd promotional tool. “Six tigers inside! Do you dare to share a drink with them?!” the shill shouted. I looked up at the sign of the tent he was shilling, and saw it was called “Lion’s Den.” I felt a brief bit of irritation, but then my brain reminded me that tigers do not live in dens, and “Tiger’s Cave” would be a much less compelling name.

Another animal-themed tent claimed to be completely run by chimpanzees. The promoters were all chimpanzees, and the sign read: “All staff are chimpanzees. Do not worry: these monkeys understand every human language.” Referring to chimps as monkeys was more offensive than referring to tigers as lions, I decided.

Some shills were more compelling than others. A man in a Santa costume with his sexy elves called us into the Winter Wonderland, an ice bar. All the furniture in the Christmas-themed bar was made of ice, and they made you put special traction stickers on your shoes so you didn’t slip on the ice floor. I stopped for a moment to see if my comrade had the same interest I did in this magical place, and when I realized he did not, we kept moving. He could clearly feel the clear and plastic-free breeze of the Atlantic Ocean, smell the saltiness calling him.


Stepping onto the Boardwalk was like stepping into a whole new madhouse. The sight of the Ocean was breathtaking. When we stood on the wooden railing and looked out into the darkness of the sea, it was like we were standing in outer space. Looking down, we could see the water was clean and clear. Poison gas aside, the genetically-engineered bacteria did its job. It cleaned up the mess created by the petrochemical craze of the 20th and 21st centuries, and also managed to clear out much of the other ocean pollution.

Paying little attention to the bars on the land-side, we walked the Boardwalk for a bit, the sight of the ocean seemingly causing my comrade to forget his horniness.

The entire boardwalk was open on the ocean-side, save for one dock where people could take boating tours out into the ocean. People were constantly dying on these boats, which resulted in the local authorities forcing the company that operates the boats to put up a large sign that read “YOU MAY DIE HERE SOON.”

Staring at the sign for several seconds, my comrade said: “that’s always true of anywhere, isn’t it.”

My heart fluttered at this, as I realized my adventure was working. Only a man in the throes of true enlightenment could make such as astute philosophical observation. This was, after all, the most important understanding any man could ever reach.


On the land-side, it was every type of hooker bar, many of them flying flags of various nations to represent the languages the hookers spoke. This often aligned with ethnicity, though not always. Further, many of the bars just flew random flags.

Based on various factors, including potentially significant hallucinations, I had started to seriously consider the possibility that there was indeed LSD in those Armenian tequila shots. Before drinking anything from one of those Volkswagen bars, I should have read the officially posted signage. But it was a really long sign, and written in very confusing English. The thing was, if they were laced with acid, you probably were not supposed to drink three of them. I decided to stop at a vending machine and get some amphetamine pills, to ensure things didn’t get too crazy.

I scanned the QR code and clicked “accept” for the outrageously priced amphetamine, and grabbed the bottle. I tried to check the milligrams, but the entire package was written in Arabic. Though the numbers were numbers (Arabic numbers, actually), there were too many numbers for me to make any sense of it. I decided to take three pills, and advised my comrade to follow the same path. He agreed, and we flagged down a sex kitten in Insane Clown Posse makeup and a corset selling martinis to get something to wash down the pills.

“These aren’t laced with anything, are they?” I asked.

“They’re gin martinis. Very dry. It’s pretty cheap gin,” she replied.

“Yeah, but I mean, there’s no drugs in them?”

“No. If there were drugs in them, I would have to carry around a big sign explaining that. You can’t sell drug-laced drinks without a big sign in Coney Island.”

I sighed, took two drinks and handed one to my comrade, then scanned the QR code on her chest, providing a gentlemanly tip.

“Thanks, toots,” I said.

She laughed. “I wish more men called me ‘toots.'”

We took our amphetamine pills and decided to be much more decisive in choosing our next bar.

“No more of that pig-face shit,” my comrade said. “That really fucked me up.”

“Agreed,” I agreed.


Because the Ukrainian girls shilling outside were pleasant, we entered a safe and normal-looking girlie bar with Georgian, Russian, British, and Chinese flags. The bar was as normal inside as out, with a pool table, a dartboard, and a nice wooden bar with wooden stools. A chimp in a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” sweatshirt sat smoking at one of the stools, but that wasn’t particularly abnormal.

We sat down in a booth and a dozen or so girls in bikinis whose ethnicities appeared to accurately represent the flags outside came over to us.

“The way this works is you choose the girls you like and then you buy them drinks and they sit at the table and talk to you. If you like them, you can have sex with them in a room upstairs, or take them outside,” I explained to my comrade. It felt surreal to be explaining something like this to a man in his mid-thirties. I was barely 20 when I had to figure out these mechanics myself.

He whispered: “it feels weird to choose, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

I laughed.

He frowned.

“Just tell me which ones you like and I’ll pick them,” I said. “Pick as many as you want, we basically have infinity money.”

Without pointing, he counted to himself, and whispered “2, 5, 9.” They were all white girls, Ukrainian or Russian. I pointed to his three and the two Chinese girls I wanted and the others went back to their shilling duties.

“Drinks for everyone,” I said, and they all made a “woo” noise and all but one sat down with us (the last was to get the drinks). “Me and my friend will have double gin tonics, with a lot of ice, short glasses, not a lot of tonic. Use whatever the most expensive gin you have is.”

“I don’t really like gin tonic,” my comrade complained.

“Well, you should have spoken up earlier, instead of getting all shy around a bunch of hookers.”

He frowned.

“What do you want then, I’ll just drink both those.”

“Whisky soda, my good man” he said, wrapping his arm around one of the girls and lighting a cigarette. I yelled across the room at the girl getting the drinks to add a whisky soda with the good whisky.

One of the Chinese girls then asked: “you want play what song?”

I was going to say “Europe – The Final Countdown,” before turning to my comrade to let him make the call.

“Europe – The Final Countdown,” he said.

“Good call.”


The following events are very blurry. Probably, either I didn’t take enough amphetamines, because I couldn’t read the dosage, or “amphetamines cures LSD” is simply an urban myth. It’s also possible that I simply consumed very much alcohol.

Regardless of the mechanics, I woke up on a sofa in the bar, with the chimp sitting on the table in front of me, smoking my cigarettes and watching me. Whitney Houston’s “I Just Want to Dance With Somebody” was playing loudly. Looking outside, I could see it was morning.

“Where’s my friend?” I asked the chimp.

Then, a Chinese girl, seemingly quite irritated, said: “he monkey, no talk. You think monkey talk? Cannot. Your friend go out. You sleep there, add 100. No free sleep here.”

“Yeah, chill,” I said. “I’m rich. Let me buy you a drink. And bring me a vodka orange juice.”

She calmed immediately: “Okay, no problem.”

I then grabbed my pack of cigarettes, to find the chimp had smoked them all. “Hey and bring me some cigarettes too,” I yelled to the girl.

“Okay, no problem.”

As I lifted myself into the sitting position, she sat down next to me with the drinks and handed me a pre-lit cigarette: “You so handsome, why you drink too much?”

“People been asking me that question for 15 fucking years, and I still don’t have any answer,” I said, a sentence I knew she wouldn’t understand.

“Your friend go out. He take two girl. He buy all people drinks many times, very happy. He good man. Even monkey love him. Monkey hate all, but love your friend. Very good man. He throw his shirt,” she pointed at my comrade’s shirt, which was folded neatly and sitting on the bar.

I ordered more drinks and lit another cigarette. The chimp motioned for one in an rude manner, and I gave him one, despite resenting the entitled attitude of the beast.


I walked out onto the boardwalk and bought a pair of cheap sunglasses from a hawker.

Most of the people had cleared out of the sunlit areas, but the bars and the tents were all still going, as they were 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the last 15 years.

I looked out on the clean ocean, the sunlight shimmering on the clear water. I thought about the repressiveness of the Megas and the lunatic debauchery of this place. And I said again, aloud, as I had so many times on so many fucked up mornings: “The world is healing.”

Then, I added: “We are healing. I am healing.”

Then, I asked, still speaking aloud to myself: “did I free my friend, or kill him?”

I wouldn’t know the answer for hours or days. When I met him on the flip side, he’d either be free or dead.

Either way, I did what I meant to do. It’s more than most people can say.