Day 3: Lava

“Rule number one, do not touch the lava. Lava is very, very hot, and you have waived your rights to sue. So, if you die, or have to get a replacement limb, that’s coming out of your pocket.”

Nobody was listening. They talking loudly over me, taking selfies. One couple was making out. That happens often, but usually at night. Part of the draw of disaster tourism is that people feel their own mortality, choose to seize life, and then fuck like bunnies. It’s subtly written into the ad copy, but not too subtly. Our clientele is wealthy, but not all that bright. Which is why I was reminding them that lava is hot. As I mentioned, there’s no legal necessity for me to do that, but there are only so many times you can watch a person dip their hand in hot lava before it wears on you. I’ve put in for a transfer to a flood. Leslie worked floods for a while. She says that everything gives you nightmares eventually, but agrees that a change is healthy. Unless, you start working plague. Plague sucks.

“Anyway, if you’ll look to your left, you’ll see death and destruction. To your right, also death and destruction.”

That briefly caught their attention, while they decided which side was the death and destruction with the best lighting (the right). At this point, the boat is literally floating on a river of lava. It took me close to two weeks, 3 tours a day before I accepted that this was safe (enough). The tourists seemed to have no such doubts.

I wonder what it’s like to simply not believe that you’re going to die. To have to travel across the globe simply to look death in the face. I’d always thought death was everywhere, but apparently, there were gated communities where she couldn’t sneak past security. Not on the guest list.

Leslie was working concessions when we returned to home base. She sold snacks, and magnets and t-shirts and condoms. People asked both of us if we’d hold their phones and take selfies of them. One guy hit on her, but Leslie doesn’t play with tourists.

Finally, we sent them back to their hotel, and we could close up. Leslie can do it herself, but if I help, she’ll buy us dinner with her tips. Most nights, that means dumplings from a food cart, but once in a while, she scores big, and we can afford a restaurant.

“We could just buy some groceries, save money.”

“This is my own little way of seizing life. Did I ever tell you about when I worked Giant Robot Attack?”

GRA is a plum assignment. Dangerous, because robots actually want to kill you. Floods and volcanoes just don’t care if they do. Most people who live through a two-week stint on GRA retire or get assigned to the home office. So, no, she hadn’t told me.

“It was fucked up. But I made enough for my mom’s operation. Not that it saved her life. Anyway, my mom hated dumplings. Anything dumpling like. Ravioli, empanadas, samosas. It was weird. Like what was she afraid of? The unknown, I guess. I mean, I watched a robot smash a skyscraper, and she was worried that a tiny pocket might have beef instead of chicken.”

“My mom is afraid of spiders.”

“Yeah, fuck spiders. I’m never going to work the spider pits.”

The dumplings had pork belly that night. Delicious.

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