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Issue #4 |

The Momentary Town

A desert, by definition, is an inherently vacuous thing. It is characterized by absence, so much so that we even have a word for the fantastical and almost certainly not-real images it drives us to see. Had you gotten hypothetically lost for a few days in the South African desert of Tankwa Karoo, the extreme temperatures and blinding dust and winds that carry your voice far away could easily make you believe that what you see there is in fact a mirage. The bleakness of the landscape otherwise is total. A sign on the way in reads: This road eats tyres.

A scythe-shaped perimeter of tents and cars solidifies from what was just dust, just a minute ago. It shimmers and bends with heat. It appears for one week, once a year, in this particular expanse of desert, and it signals the end of all logical order to all the subsequent things you’ll see.

A sea dragon bobs over the tops of the hundreds of tents. A cardboard city called Wonderville is being painted bright colors by children. There are kissing booths. Spanking booths. A jungle gym full of grownups. An entire roller rink, apropos of literally nothing, complete with crates of roller skates in various sizes. A massive silver pirate ship, a chapel, multiple bars, an ice cream stand, sculptural ostriches that move robotically from the neck, doors that stand alone in their frames and show Fun House-like things when you open them that are sort of hard to describe. There is a metal rhino that rolls out at night to play music, and butterfly wings the size of a modest home. The coup de grace is a group of five wooden spikes projecting several hundred feet into the sky.

To read the rest of this story, please purchase a print copy of Story #4, Spring 2019

Kastalia Medrano is the Travel Writer at Thrillist, and before that was on the Science team at Newsweek. Her freelance journalism has run at or is forthcoming in VICE, the Paris Review Daily, Teen Vogue, Pacific Standard, National Geographic, Time Inc., Real Life, and a number of others because she must side-hustle just like everyone …

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