Arianna Reiche is an American writer based in London. Her fiction has appeared in Ambit Magazine, Popshot, Berlin’s SAND Journal, and Glimmer Train, who awarded her first prize in their 2017 Fiction Open. She's performed live readings at the Tate Modern and Acud Macht Neu in Berlin, and her non-fiction and features have appeared in Vogue International, Vice, Fest Magazine, USA Today, and New Scientist. She currently works for a mobile game studio in London, where she specializes in interactive storytelling. Find her Twitter at @ariannareiche or at www.ariannareiche.com.
Omra says I need to come down to the village with her. I roll my eyes so that she doesn’t know that I know she’s being braver than me. I’m always less brave than whoever I’m with.
But fuck it, who knows. Maybe she’s scared. Maybe it’s hard to gauge
emotion inside a funicular.
The road we’d normally take has been closed since the season ended.
Some of the local men make fortunes driving tourists up and down the mountain, along back roads and non-roads. Those are the tourists who wanted to have a unique experience, to see the place when it’s not meant to be seen. They’re just more interesting than other tourists in that way. Most of the time they are American or English or Canadian.
The funicular runs for most of the year, but the men with the cars didn't
want us making this widely known.
The apartment Omra’s friend shares with the other bartenders has grey
linoleum in every room, like an office or a school. Occasionally it’s streaked in a mismatched tile of deeper grey. When Omra’s friend starts to speak to us I remember him from the other night: Loud. Almost no accent. He’s got the kind of gravitas that smells like a personality disorder. I have the kind of sunburn that feels like a bruise.
I take my jacket off when he and Omra disappear. I begin to recall more
details: He hadn’t been working the other night. He said he knew Omra’s brother. Each time she tried to speak to him in French, he disappeared to get more drinks. On the way out, she shouted that she didn’t have a brother. He acted like he didn’t hear.
“How old are you?” says a voice from a sofa I hadn’t seen. I’m startled but
try not to show it. He’s in layers of cotton: shirts, hoodie, sweatpants. Stubble on a fat face, and his eyes have locked onto my arm, where it’s become crimson. I say fourteen, just to see what he does.
He snorts, nods, and doesn’t say anything more for thirty-five minutes.
From where I'm seated, at a countertop with tall chairs dividing kitchen from living room, I can see the village's one intersection. Two cars move through it without stopping. One stops but tears off with an engine burn, some terrible nu-metal leaking from the open windows. Probably the boys from Liechtenstein. All of the boys from Liechtenstein play 00s nu-metal, because they all think they're Liechtenstein's very baddest bad boys.
I think I must have begun to hum. I think I may have fallen asleep a little, and sung without realizing it.
“I’m gonna play you something,” says the guy in the corner, startling me for a second time. He pushes himself up from the sofa and moves toward a stereo. “I doubt you’ll have heard it before.”
I let him do it, shuffle his feet to the far side of the room. He squats and connects his phone into a black box. I feel the sonic pop when he turns
something off and on again.
The music is familiar, although he’s right, I haven’t heard this precise thing before. I can’t place it in time; neither the point in time when I might have heard it, nor when it might have been written. The memory of it inside me is something different: it’s ancestral. Inherited. I feel certain that my father listened to this kind of thing when he was my age. It seems up his alley.
“You know you were doing the right thing,” the guy says. “Getting sunburned like that.”
“I tried to pull down my sleeves, but I shrunk it last month.”
“No really. Visitors insist on keeping all their layers on and get sweaty and then the sweat freezes to their bodies and they get hypothermia.”
“Yeah,” I say. “I’ve heard that.”
“Sometimes they die.” He’s scratching at a spot on the back of his neck. His nails look clean.
“Yeah, I know. Our moms work...” I nod upward, toward the sky.
“Not here, like, the village. But yeah. Here, here.”
He gets it. He does that snort again. Light breaks through their small window and starts to warm the denim on my thigh. I resume guessing where my father was when he heard this song, and how the sound made its way to me, before I was born.
I stroke my own arm and hope that the guy starts tapping along to the beeping beats, with a finger or a foot. I think that would be nice. Tapping and
humming together. I bring my nose closer to my elbow, to look. I can’t wait for the skin to start to peel.