There are dead things in the whirlpool. On hot summer days you can smell the remains of fish and birds and other victims of the river rotting in the sun.
Today is one of those days. The sun has just entered the sky and already it’s baking the world. The dead things that have been thrown from the swirling water fester on the banks of the whirlpool. Other dead things are still caught in the current. They’re hidden from view by movement, by the white water churning and spinning. The current keeps them for a long time, but eventually all the detritus are tossed out and wash up on shore. I wonder if I’ll join them.
I never liked Niagara Falls. It’s the sort of place that lets you know how close we all are to chaos. Other cities do a better job of hiding the animal madness of us, the ugly, the mean, the horny. This is a place that you could easily imagine abandoned and falling apart. So much of it already I s. The restaurants and shops and churches, now empty for decades. No one cares to fix them up. Those who build in the area, build new.
I hear Sam grunting with exertion. I want to fight back but I can't. Something broke inside me with that last kick to the spine. I can't feel my arms trailing along the dirt path, or my ankles that he holds tight, pulling me through the forest.
There’s blood in my mouth. I can feel it but I can't taste it and that scares me more than anything. I know the taste of my own blood. Last night wasn't the first time Sam hit me. I want to think it won't be the last, but I'm afraid that would be a lie.
“You should’ve never talked to me like that,” Sam says. His voice is trembling. He’s scared. He isn't mad anymore like he was when I mocked him last night. I shouldn't have. I know it, but I didn't want him climbing on top of me with the chlorine stink all over him from his shift at the water park. I should have said I was sick instead of getting mouthy.
Sam was the first person I met in Niagara Falls. I hitchhiked here from Oshawa to see a wonder of the world and instantly wanted to say fuck this whole thing and thumb it back home. Only, I didn't have a home to thumb it too. My home was supposed to be with Aunt Jen and her pervert husband but neither of them were missing me.
I heard the rumble first. It was hidden under the sounds of cars and tourists. I kept heading down hill and the sond kept growing. Soon I could hear it over all the other sounds of this shitty little city. It was everywhere. Next I saw the mist on the horizon. It rose above the buildings, stretching for the sky, like a cloud, and I knew I was getting closer.
The roar of the whirlpool is different than the falls. It fills my ears as I'm pulled helplessly through the forest. Sam drops my feet and stumbles away from me. I see him leaning against a tree. I think he’s vomiting. After, he falls on his knees beside me.
“I’m sorry, baby. You know I didn't mean to,” he sobs into my hair.
He has puke and mucus on his chin, and my blood on his hands. I want to move but nothing is listening.
When Sam brought me home I knew to be afraid of him – grown men who bring home homeless girls are trouble. He had a place on the edge of town, run down and faded like all the rest of this crap city. There’s no heart to this city. There’s a centre which fades to decay as you near the edges where it finally blends with the rural areas that surround it. Sam’s house sat, across from an abandoned warehouse and beside a forgotten train track. His place was near the whirlpool. I’d never heard of the whirlpool, but it was beautiful too.
Sam was old and ugly, but he took care of me so I didn't fight back when he started getting mean. I knew I could end up worse places. He didn't ask for weird sex stuff and when he was in a good mood he was funny. I know it's true—he didn't mean to kill me.
My first day in Niagara, when I finally found the waterfall, I was shocked by the colour of it. None of the pictures I saw ever captured the green of that water. I thought someone must have dyed it. I forgot that the falls weren't fake like the rest of this town. It wasn't made by man, but by thousands of tons of water crashing through rock and time. The river was real, and it didn't matter that all this ugliness had built up around it – the river was a beautiful place in the world.
Sam’s stopped crying and he's on his knees, rolling me over the rock. I know where we are. He brought me here once to sit on the ledge over the whirlpool. He wanted to hold hands, but I didn't want to hold his where tourists and families could come by and see us. I remember the view, the churning turquoise water and the forest all around.
I know now this is the end. I will fall from this cliff into the whirlpool and my body will be sucked into the current. I want it to stay there forever, bouncing around with the dead fish and raccoons and whatever else might be in there. I don't want to wash up and be found baking in the sun. I don't want them taking me back to Aunt Jen and her dick-head husband so they can cry over a grave and say they did what they could to help me. I don't want to think of Sam in a prison for the rest of his days.
My body rolls off the edge of the cliff and into the air. I don't want to think of any of that ugly shit while I fall through the sky. Instead, I think of the swirling green water, and I remember that the world is a beautiful place.
Photograph and Story by: Sarah Scott