I went to the Mall of America on the third day of the writers’ conference. I needed to escape the noise of the conference and the skyscrapers of downtown. I needed the sunshine of the train ride and the experience of witnessing firsthand the monstrosity of this shopping beacon. A monument to capitalism and excess, this landmark was recently mentioned as an ISIS target. I had this in my mind as I touristed through the various levels.
This mall is unnerving. I know it wasn’t just me. I was in an elevator with five girls, about age ten. When the doors closed, one screamed, “We are going to die in here.” Another confirmed, “We are gonna die in here today.” I can remember being that age. I can’t imagine thinking about death, especially not in an elevator on a special trip to a great mall. But the amusement park located inside might be partly responsible for this sensation. People screaming as they are lifted from the ground, others flying wildly or being splashed as they sail down a waterfall in a log. Screaming and screaming in a mall.
All of us could hear this alarm, but was any of it real? (Back at the conference, the next workshop I attended was on the effect of sound in writing. Perhaps the rest of the attendees needed the field trip I had just taken.)