We’re on a mission requiring bravery in the face of both terror and disgust and not everyone is going to make it. But I intend to last to the bitter, slimy end.
We arrive at Wolmido after work on a Tuesday evening, and other people rush to the flashier, better-painted Viking ships. But we know better. The one closest to the water, the ugliest of the the three is the one to go and test your mettle. We head there immediately.
Facing each other from across the ship, we fill the seats on either end. Purses placed on the side, lights are starting to come on as the sun goes down. Slinging the strap over our shoulders as an extra safety precaution, we pull the metal bar down over our laps.
Slowly the ship starts to swing, and we smile. The first time I get butterflies in my stomach on a downward swing, I cry out laughing.
This is the carnival ride I remember from teenage years, finding some excitement in a place eight hours from the nearest amusement park. I let go of the bar for an extra thrill.
When the ship is completely vertical, I hold the bar with one hand. I’m glad the strap is on, but I wish I’d checked to make sure that it wasn’t frayed or loose before the ride started.
The bar wobbles, though it never lets go. I imagine the faces of my friends on the opposite side if it did, our bodies flying toward their terrified grins.
The Vikings brutally killed their enemies and I can hear a sadistic edge to the carnie’s voice as he calls out in Korean words I can’t understand. We scream as the ship goes past vertical and tilts us upside down.
Gripping the bar with both hands while we’re frozen in the air, Emile starts screaming in real terror. Our fear is only blunted by the pure joy of survival. If this bar lets go, I hope I’ll be unconscious before I hit anything on the downward swing.
Swinging down and back up, we watch our friends’ frozen smiles above us as they hang from their straps.
Slowing down, the ride returns to vertical and gradually horizontal positions, filling us with relief and disappointment. I both want to do it again right away and never again in my entire life.
Pulling the strap off me, my legs wobbling, I’m still stunned as we walk past the batting cages to the water. We made it through this first challenge, but I’m not sure if we can all live up to the next. Still reeling, muscles shaking, we begin our search for a restaurant serving live octopus.