Haunted Amusement Park

You are exploring with a friend when you stumble upon an abandoned amusement park. You eagerly start to approach it, but as you get closer, the lights suddenly come on and the rides start to move. Do you keep going to find out what’s happening or do you run away as fast as you can?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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334 thoughts on “Haunted Amusement Park

  1. leoshock

    Have Fun

    “Boys,” he called after us. Kenny and I spun around, our mouths full. The man showed us his teeth, peeling back his dry, cracked lips. “Have fun.”
    Later, after a brief stop by our respective apartments to change into walking attire, Kenny and I strode out down our normal path which ended at the local playground. On the other side where one day previously had been a thicket of trees and shrubbery was a dirt path leading beyond the trees. We followed it to a clearing, where a tall wooden fence topped with a gratuitous amount of barbed wire surrounded a small theme park. Anthony’s Funland was written in neon and hung in an archway over a small entrance.
    “Ever heard of this place?” I asked.
    “Nope, I didn’t know there wasn’t just trees here.”
    We chuckled, shrugged our shoulders and walked inside. The main road led straight to the Ferris Wheel in the center of the park. On either sides of the road were rusted, broken rides and roller coasters and tattered gaming booths. Finally we arrived at the Wheel, which towered above us in disrepair, looking much larger than from a few hundred feet away.
    “God. How long do you suppose it’s been like this, shouldn’t someone have closed this off or something? Especially right next to a playground.”
    “Whatever man, let’s just get out of here, I’m beat.” Kenny turned to leave and I would have followed, but I couldn’t move or believe what I was seeing. It was on.
    There were no flashing lights, no flashing buttons on the control panel, and yet, it was on. The Ferris Wheel started to turn slowly, but it was speeding up steadily. I reasoned that the wind or perhaps shifting weight had been the cause, but it made a full revolution and then started again, this time faster. The screeching of the old metal parts scraping and grinding against each other was almost too much to take. Kenny and I waited for a brief moment, both frightened and silently willing the Wheel to stop, allowing us to go on with our lives and say, “remember the time that weird thing happened.” The Wheel kept turning, kept speeding up. Kenny went for the controls, but they were useless, ravaged and destroyed by time’s decay. Even the power cables were striped and mangled. It went faster and faster, making it’s cages swing and move in ways they weren’t meant to. The piercing sound only got worse and louder, and I couldn’t shake the terror that we had somehow awakened something. The cages could take the speed of the Wheel no more and began taking flight, impaling the other attractions and rides. It was time for us to go. We left, running as if for our lives. Kenny yelled for me to watch out, and then shoved me out of the way of a rampaging cage. I got back on my feet with his help and we both made for the park entrance, which was open. Suddenly the lights came on, and jaunty music played as other dead rides began to come to life and neon signs beamed to life as we passed. There was a sign flickering wildly at the exit of the park that had the face of a clown. He grinned insanely at us through one eye and a hole where the other should have been. Glancing for a moment at the sign I was reminded of that the Hotdog Man had said to Kenny and I earlier that day when he gave us tickets to this freak show. It read Hope You Had Fun.

  2. Clasher

    Hey guys this is my first ever story so i hope you like it!

    Swish! The sound of the fishing line cutting through the brisk evening air relaxed me as it sailed away from the muddy bank. At once, there was a mighty tug on the other end and i couldnt help but slide down the slick surface of the muddy bank. David reached out a helping hand but lost his footing and tumbled head over heels into the murky sludge. Josh erupted into a fit of giggles, but suddenly, a mix of horror and surprise took over his face as he was flung into the shallow water. As we groggily arose from the water, a loud, booming laughter sounded over the premises.
    “What the..?” David was interrupted as all the lights and rides 420 blazed to life, a rusty remnant of their former glory. The park was lit up by purple lightning crackling across the sky, which in turn sparked booming thunder which rolled across the clouds. We now faced a serious dilemma. Stay out here and get soaked to the skin, or seek shelter in the intimidating park.

    “I think we should go for it” said David. “So do I” i replied hesitantly. There was something very unsettling about this park, but we really needed shelter so we dashed across the patchy grass. Small areas of already pooling water splashed against our skin, so we were soaked through by the time we reached the chainlink fence. Out of the downpour, we hugged ourselves to keep warm. As if on cue, the nippy wind aroused some goosebumps which prickled our skin, pushing us deeper into the eerie park. Neon lights danced around us and carnival music played in the otherwise silent and empty park. Our goosebumps had certainly sprung up by now and i was sure it wasnt just from the cold.

    Eventually, the rain ceased to fall from the sky, but we were already soaked to the bone. To add to our terror, as we neared a haunted house attraction, everything shut off. We were left in the hair rasing silence until we found ourselves and quickly started walking to a nearby power source, hoping against hope for an ON switch. Sadly, to our dismay, we found cut wires and generators covered in cobwebs, which were obviously in no working condition, and had been for quite some time. What the hell was going on here?

    We entered the house of mirrors after our sad discovery, but were jarred by the sound of the doors slamming shut behind us. We sprinted of into the unremitting maze and after a few twists and turns, we were hopelessly lost. That was when the groans started. Disfigured, grotesque looking zombie clowns bore down on us, closer every second. Someone shrieked as we tried to run but they were behind us as well! Gnarled hands scraped at our skin and fingers tore at our clothes as we tried desperately to escape, but there were just too many and they soon overpowered us. We were engulfed by the time we hit the deck, submerged under their bodies as if in a ruck in rugby. The last thing I remembered was a mutilated face leering at me, its rotten fingers inching closer and closer toward me. Then everything went black.

    I awoke to the cool air of the evening and I cast out my line as the last orange embers of the sun faded behind the horizon. Immediately, i was overpowered by an impossibly strong force, and me and David tumbled into the water. Josh was flung in, almost as if by an imaginary force too! Maniac laughter sounded as josh swore under his breath. With a quick glance at the amusement park, i said “Yeah. Lets not go in there.”

    THE END!

    Hey guys thanks for reading please comment any tips or feedback on my writing. Thank You!
    PS: please forgive any mistakes.

    1. Observer Tim

      Nicely done, Clasher. Is this your first story, or the first one you posted here? It feels more like the latter, because I can see signs of experience.

      I had to reflect somewhat to figure out the gist of the story; I’m not fond of the “It was a dream” ending, mostly because it’s been overused in the past (don’t avoid it altogether, just use it sparingly). Otherwise the story is a beautifully surreal slice of life. 🙂

      My technical editor notes a few points where you reapeat words in close proximity. While not an error it tends to read strangely, so other ways of expressing the idea are preferable when you can do it. For example, in the second paragraph you could say “…which in turn sparked thunder that rolled across…”.

  3. thelittleone

    Hopefully I’m not too late this time! I tried posting last week, but I hadn’t been following for a while and thought these were still on Thursdays! So I guess this counts as my first post! Thank you in advance to anyone for reading it this so late in the time frame.

    —————————-

    Do you know that feeling when you jump? There’s a moment, and it’s only a moment, that you find yourself suspended. And you know you’re not really flying, but you know your feet have left the ground. And you wonder what had kept them there all this time. Then gravity catches up to you, and suddenly you’re not jumping anymore.

    You’re falling.

    Who knew that’s what death would feel like?

    ——————————————

    It’s not that hard, just do it.

    I stared through my translucent shoes to the platform below, the ribbed metal covered in years of grime and loose debris. I sat on top of an old wooden horse frozen in mid-leap on a broken down carousel. Although, I wasn’t really sitting, more hovering just centimeters from the surface. I didn’t like to touch things, haven’t ever since I “woke up” here one day. It’s a truly hollow feeling to pass through what should be a solid object.

    Which brings me back to the platform, like it or not. I refocused all of my attention on it, memorizing every scuff, candy wrapper, and beer can. It was real. It was solid. And so am I.

    I closed my nonexistent eyes.

    I jumped off the horse, mimicking gravity as best I could. I imagined the wind in my hair, the rustling of my clothes, the firmness of the ground beneath my feet…

    I opened my eyes, though I didn’t have to. I felt the familiar icy sensation hollowing me out, slowly replacing optimism with despair. I looked down. The metal was up to my knees, my feet just stopping short of the ground below. I clutched the empty space that had once been my stomach.

    Still falling, I thought. I moved back up to the horse and pretended to lean against it. It’s open mouth laughing at me.

    “You’re one to make fun, I don’t see you going anywhere.” The wood stared at me through chipped paint and graffiti. “It’s like, I took a bad step one day and I never got around to hitting the ground, you know? I’m just waiting for it happen, but I don’t really know if I want it to…” I leaned over the edge and looked at the tufts of weeds dancing in a breeze I couldn’t feel. “What if I just fall through?”

    The silence swallowed my words.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is powerful, LittleOne. I really like the immediacy of the ghost perspective and how she (the voice feels female to me) is still trying to break the cycle and get herself properly dead. I especially like the line “I closed my nonexistent eyes.” That kind of encapsulates everything. Great job! 🙂

      1. Monique71592

        I was drawn to your story in your opening section (the prologue kinda). I thought it was good, you conveyed what it feels like to jump and be suspended in the air.
        But i got lost after your opening. I didn’t actually realize the character was a ghost till i read another review. I don’t think you ever clearly mentioned that the character is a ghost, maybe i’m wrong. But it would have helped me understand the story a lot better if you had told me the character was a ghost.
        Also why is the ghost trying to jump or fly off of the carousel. Just for fun? to learn how to fly? A character feels more real if there something motivating them in their actions.
        Overall I liked your idea, i thought it was very creative to use a ghost as your main character.

  4. cosi van tutte

    One more before the prompt changes…Fair warning, this one is a little bit nuts. 😀

    Qunicy MacDavitt was walking down the street on a fair, summer morn. He was whistling Dixie and thinking about eating a big bowl of corn chowder.

    Then, a cow in a pink patent leather helmet swerved into his path. The fool thing was riding a unicycle and not even trying to obey the rules of the road.

    “Well, that just ain’t right.” said Quincy to himself. He ruffed up his sleeves and ran after the crazy bovine. “Imma gonna learn you a lesson!”

    The cow looked back, blew raspberries, and careened into Old Man Harris’ abandoned tree farm.

    Years of training for marathons paid off well. Quincy ran so hard and so fast he nearly scorched the rubber off his shoes. He caught up to the cow and jumped high into the air to tackle the fool critter.

    She blew raspberries at his descending form and fwhooop! Disappeared.

    Quincy landed face first in the dirt. “Gerrff.”

    While he was lying there, feeling face sore and rightfully embarrassed, the rinkadee-dinkadee music of a carrousel twinkled in the air.

    Quincy raised his head.

    A whole carnival sprawled before him with rides and food and cow ghosts dressed up as people. The cow with the pink patent leather helmet trotted over to him. “Come to the fair with me then, laddie.” For some reason, she had a strong Scottish burr. “We can ride on the Ferris wheel and then—” She removed her helmet and batted her long eyelashes. “We can go into the Tunnel of Looooove.”

    Quincy stood and dusted himself off. “Sorry, but I ain’t goin’ into no Tunnel of Love with no cow.”

    “Moooo, well! That would be your loss.”

    “No, it ain’t. It’s all your loss.”

    “What?”

    “Wait. What?” Quincy considered his words and realized that they just didn’t make any sense. “Imma goin’ home. Don’t you go swervin’ your bike at innocent walkin’ people no more. You understand?”

    “Mmm-hmmm. I’ll only swerve at yooooou.” She giggled a moo and disappeared.

  5. Katia.Snow

    It was the Fourth of July. For the people in Summerville, Arizona, it was a special day. It was a time for people to come together and celebrate. People would drag out their grills and start barbeques, children would fool around and get their faces painted. There wasn’t a person in Summerville, Arizona, who didn’t like the Fourth of July. Except for Gary Hartwell. Gary had no interest in barbeques or face painting. He was always found in his room buried in a biology textbook. Gary was what you would call a “nerd” at school. Today, however, was a different day. For the first time since he could remember, Gary was looking forward to celebrating the Fourth of July. Today, his friend Owen McCarthy said that they would drive out of town today. Owen had said that he knew a place that exceeded anything they could do in town. Owen was almost the opposite of Gary. Owen was part of the football team at school. He was what you would call “Mr. Perfect” at school. Gary was sitting in a chair in his backyard, watching his younger brother and sister play with the sprinkler. His comic book lay discarded on the lawn. Suddenly, a car horn sounded at the front of the house. Gary jumped up and ran to the front yard. Sure enough, he saw Owen’s car parked in the driveway. Gary walked over to the shotgun window and knocked on it. Owen rolled it down.
    “Hey,” Owen said.
    “Hi, Owe,” Gary said before looking back at his house and yelling: “Mom, Owen’s here!”
    A few moments later his mother appeared at the front door.
    “Have fun at the golf course, boys, but be back by four,” she called. Gary quickly got into the shotgun seat and waved good-bye to his mother as Owen pulled out of the driveway. As soon as Gary’s house was out of sight, both boys burst into a fit of laughter. It had been so easy to fool Gary’s mother into thinking that they were going to a golf course.
    “Man, your mom is too trusting,” Owen said. Gary snorted and pushed up his glasses.
    “Do I need to remind you that she makes the best spaghetti in town?”
    “Oh, hell yeah! She is an amazing cook,” Owen agreed. The two boys continued talking about things only teenage boys would talk about. Gary noticed that they had left town and were driving down an empty highway. After two hours of endless scenery, Owen drove down a faded old road.
    “Hey, Gary, see that?,” he asked, pointing up ahead. Gary adjusted his glasses and looked carefully at a faded old sign that they were driving towards. It read: “Happy Harry’s Amusement Park.” Gary gasped. Everyone in the state of Arizona knew the story of Happy Harry’s Amusement Park. It had boasted of the craziest, zaniest, most bizarre rides in history. On the opening day, a young boy, coincidentally named Harry, had ridden on one of the rides and broke his neck from the speed of the ride. The park had closed down, but legend said that Harry’s ghost still roamed the abandoned amusement park.
    “Dude, no way I’m going in there,” Gary protested. Owen laughed.
    “Are you scared?,” he demanded.
    “I read comic books and watch Star Wars,” Gary reminded him. “I’m a geek.”
    “So? You also watched all the Insidious movies, and you also know every movie Stephen King has ever made.”
    “But those are movies!”
    “Dude, come on.”
    Gary sighed and crossed his arms. Owen parked the car right outside the entrance and went outside. He looked at Gary expectantly.
    “Gary! It’s broad daylight, man! There’s no ghost that can spook us. We’ll probably walk right through it!”
    Gary relented and walked out of the car. He and Owen walked into the amusement park and looked around them. Tumbleweed flew by them. Owen caught sight of a merry-go-round and started towards it. Gary tried not to laugh as his friend jumped onto a purple pony.
    “You gonna join me?,” Owen called. Gary walked over to the merry-go-round and sat down in a blue and white racing car. The seat was way to small for the sixteen year old, but Gary decided not to bother about that. Owen pulled out his phone and leaned back a little. Gary realized he was taking a selfie.
    “You’re kidding me, right?,” Gary groaned. Owen ignored him. He was probably posting it on Instagram.
    “Still think this place is scary?,” he asked.
    “Yes,” Gary said. Owen rolled his eyes and jumped off the pony. Suddenly, he gasped and pointed to a building that was “The House of Mirrors”. There was a light inside. Before Gary could protest Owen was pulling him up and dragging him to the house.
    “Owen! I hate you!,” Gary exclaimed, trying to break his friend’s grip on his arm.
    “Come on,” Owen urged. He swung the door open and pulled Gary inside. Surprisingly, the light had vanished. ‘I was just seeing thing,’ Gary told himself. The room was terribly dark.
    “Oh, would you look at that,” Gary said. “Too dark to see. Let’s GO, Owen.”
    “I’m not stupid,” Owen said, turning on his phone for some light.
    “The percentage you got on the last biology test begs to differ.”
    Owen started to walk forward. Gary decided to follow his friend, even though he knew he might come to regret it. They walked into another room. Owen looked at the wall.
    “Hey look! It’s made out of mirrors!,” he commented. Gary saw that Owen was right, except that they were just regular mirrors. There was nothing special about them; they didn’t make your head look too big or your body too small. Gary and Owen looked at each other in confusion. Suddenly, Owen’s phone went off. Gary heard his friend curse and fumble around…and then scream. Gary’s heart stopped and he froze. Owen’s scream was cut short.
    “Owen?,” Gary asked. “What the hell?”
    There was no answer. Instead, a dim light turned on. It was the same one he had seen outside. Owen grinned at Gary like an idiot.
    “You…do you know how scary that was?,” Gary screamed. Owen doubled over with laughter.
    “You should have seen the look on your face,” he managed between laughs. Just as it seemed that he had calmed down, Owen burst into another fit of laughter. The corners of Gary’s mouth curved into a smile.
    “Just wait until Halloween,” he warned. “You’re dead.”

    1. Observer Tim

      I love the teenage prank feel of this, Katia. You did a great job portraying the kind of knowledge that comes from long friendship/rivalry. Wonderful dialogue, too. 🙂

      My only gripe is one of my usuals; I would find it easier on the eyes if you could sneak in an extra line break between paragraphs.

  6. cosi van tutte

    The only light in Nonfar Woods came from a scattered group of fireflies SOS’ing their love messages. Thick swaths of clouds liberally veiled the moon and the stars.

    And neither Jake Mullholland nor Frank Wentrup had a flashlight.

    Frank shook his head. “Jake. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you are an idiot.”

    Jake scowled. “Oh, I’m an idiot all of a sudden.”

    “Not all of a sudden. You’ve always been a bit of a dope. But now you are a full-blown idiot. Getting us lost like that. You had the map in your hands!”

    “Oh, yeah. Sure. Blame me for rogue gusts of wind that tear maps out of innocent people’s hands.”

    “Why not? That gust of wind was probably your fault anyway.”

    “Oh, you’re just gonna blame me for every little thing, aren’t ya?”

    Frank glanced around. “If it’s your fault, sure.”

    “Well, guess what, genius? It wasn’t.”

    “Huh? Wasn’t what?”

    “Wasn’t my fault, ya dipstick.”

    “Dipstick?” Frank shot a sharp glare at him. “Dipstick? Who you callin’ a dipstick?”

    “You, ya grease-glooped dipstick. This little adventure was all your idea. There I was, chatting up Mindy Quazzino over a cold cup of lemonade. Then, you came rushing in and jabbed a dirty, old map in my face and were all ‘Wheeee! Look! I found a slimy, old map with unfamiliar trails marked on it. Let’s go exploring! Wheeeeeee!”

    “Dumbhead. It was dirty, not slimy. And, do I have to mention it again, you lost it.”

    “Yeah? Well, you didn’t bring a flashlight.”

    “That’s because it was daylight when we left camp.” He tripped over a tree root and fell to his hands and knees. “You know, this just isn’t fair.”

    Jake rolled his eyes. “Here we go with the poor me act.”

    “I had the day all planned out. A little walking. A little swimming. And then, I’d sit next to Mindy Quazzino and guzzle down a ton of sticky hot smores. And then, I’d get back to my cabin, take a shower, and go to bed.”

    “Oh, my. What an ambitious schedule. Smores aren’t even all that good.”

    Frank rose to his feet and gaped at Jake. “Smores are the perfect snack, you know-nothing—”

    “Quit insulting me or I’ll punch you.”

    “What’s the point? You’d miss my face by three whole miles.”

    “Wanna see me try?”

    “As a matter of fact, yeah. I could use a good laugh right about now.”

    Jake balled up his hands. “Prepare for a bloody nose and two black eyes.”

    Frank smirked and stepped into a fighting stance. “Bring it on, dummy.”

    “Oh, I’ll bring it all right. Right into your stupid face.”

    Fireflies drifted in between the two men. The salty, meaty scent of hot dogs wifted past Jake’s nose. “Wait.” He uncurled his hands. “Do you smell that?”

    “Don’t try chickening out with—” The salted butter scent of popcorn grabbed his attention. “Popcorn? Out here?”

    “Maybe we’re close to camp!”

    Frank cupped his hands around his mouth. “Hello? Helllllo?”

    Jake glanced around only to freeze solid still.

    Thousands of fireflies filled the forest. Every blink, every flicker revealed a phantom image. A carousel. A Ferris wheel. Concession stands.

    People.

    Frank lowered his hands. “What the—”

    A sad-faced girl in an old-fashioned dress approached Jake. She faded and reappeared with the fireflies’ light.

    He wanted to run away, but his legs refused to cooperate.

    She spoke, but her voice was distant and hard to understand – almost like a song caught between radio stations.

    Jake stared at her, clueless. She repeated it again and again, but he had no idea what she was saying. He closed his eyes and focused on her words.

    “It’s…long…since…guests…Will you stay?”

    He opened his eyes with a jolt. “You want me to stay here with you?”

    “With us.”

    The other people drifted forward and stood, flickering, behind the girl.

    That was just too much for Frank to handle. He turned and ran.

    “Will…stay?”

    “…stay?” chorused the others.

    Jake thought about it. “Will I have to die?”

    Her expression turned sadder. “Yes.”

    He thought about basketball and hot fudge poured over banana Moon Pies and campfires and lemonade and Mindy Quazzino.

    “Will…stay?”

    He shook his head. “Sorry, but I don’t want to die just yet.”

    The others drifted away, leaving the two of them alone. She handed him a piece of paper. It felt so reassuringly real and solid. Jake unfolded the paper and grinned. It was Frank’s map.

    It had two new marks on it: A big circle with the words “You Are Here” marked inside of it and a X with the words “Your Campsite”.

    He looked up at her. “Thanks! Well, I have to go find Frank. ‘Bye.”

    “When…ready…die…come back here.”

    He pondered her words as he ran through the forest. Come back here when I’m ready to die…Who knows? Maybe I will.

    1. Monique71592

      Cosi Van tutte,
      I liked your use of fireflies for light, that portrayed a nice image that i was easily able to visualize.
      But i couldn’t always tell which guy was speaking, its OK to add a Frank said, or Jake said every once in a while so its easier for the reader to fallow.
      Also i felt like you had to many things going on. The Mindy girl seemed kind of random and not necessary to the story.
      And the end also confused me. Why would Jake want to die to be with the dead sad girl, when he was just a few seconds ago super into Mindy? Or was Frank into Mindy? I got a little lost with who was into who.
      I am not trying to put your writing down, i am just suggesting things so you can make your story better. There were some parts that you did a very good job at creating an image that i could visualize in my mind. Practice practice practice, keep at it and you will keep on getting better 🙂
      Good Job over all!

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, Monique, for your comments!

        Sorry that this one was a little rough around the edges. I posted it a lot faster than I usually do. And, to be honest, I’m not completely happy with the ending either.

        As for the Frank said, Jake said, my first take on this story was even worse. The whole first part barely had any attributions! 🙁

        Thanks again for your comments! I appreciate it. 😀

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a strange one, Cosi. Just how lost were those guys? It had a sort of frat comedy feel to it, and I get the feeling these two had been consuming at least a few sociable beverages over the course of the afternoon and evening. I really like the touch of making the lights like fireflies. It was very nice of the dead girl to give him back the map and some directions. 🙂

      Unlike Monique I had no trouble following the dialogue, though I wouldn’t be one to call you on it anyway.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Cosi, I agree with Tim. I thought the fireflies were such a lovely touch, and metaphor for the illusiveness of the girl and the other images. I thought the dialogue was great and not difficult. These guys are old friends, but not old, so their speech patterns seemed very real. Most enjoyable.

  7. derrdevil

    Jonah plunged into the thicket, scrambling over the soft mud. Scurrying deeper inside, he lost his shoe on a protruding root, the thorny brambles ripping away at his shirt, poking and scratching him raw as he made haste through the bush. He rolled over on his side to peer back into the darkness from where he came.

    His breath ragged as he gasped for air, blood pumping as his heart thumped away at his chest. His mind racing with erratic thoughts. What the hell was that? Frankie said the place is abandoned! Supposed to be! Oh my god, Frankie! Where the heck is Frankie? Did they catch him? Shit! Frankie! What happened to Frankie?

    As Jonah caught his breath, his mind began to settled down, to focus on what was at hand. He peered back into the darkness but could not see a thing through the pitch black night. What the hell is going on? He had seen a light, he knew that much, and it had spooked him. So he decided to run. He should have warned Frankie, but there was no time.

    Frankie had said that the old amusement park was as good a spot as any to get high. Far a ways from the marauding masses of their quaint little town, and about ten months into its isolation, nature had begun to take over the place, warping it’s surreal glamour into a state of grotesque natural beauty. Quiet, ethereal, and otherworldly, the place was simply magic.

    Only the occasional homeless hung around for the shelter the abandoned lots provided, and they were all pretty harmless. And highly unlikely to carry torches. Only cops carried torches. Perhaps there was a plan to rid the town of the destitute. That could be the only reason why there were cops in the area. Or maybe word had caught on about the parks isolation, a possible hot spot for junkies and dealers alike.

    Shit! Things don’t look good at all. I need to find Frankie and get the hell out of this place?

    Against his better judgment, Jonah began to shuffle out from the bush and back into the darkness. It was a filthy affair crawling through the wet earth, but he managed to find his shoe and hop out without much noise. The coast seemed clear as he crept along the outskirts of the building whispering for Frankie, until he heard the distinct sound of music in the distance.

    He chose to go closer, harbouring along the safety of the outskirts of the amusement park. And when he got to the merry-go-round, he was surprised to find Frankie manning the controls more so than the fact that one of the rides still worked.

    “Dude! What the fuck are you doing?” Jonah whispered from behind a building, but he couldn’t hear him.

    “Frankie!” He called a little louder. “Frankie!” On his second call Frankie heard his friend and turned towards him.

    “Jonah, brother!” Frankie beamed. “Where the hell have you been?”

    “What are you doing?” Frankie still whispered.

    “Me? I’m the ringmaster and this is my circus, bro!” He laughed without abandon. “Welcome, welcome! Come one, come all!” Frankie bellowed to an empty park.

    “Dude! Shut the fuck up!” Jonah whispered back. Frankie looked at him with amusement and confusion.

    “What is up with you? You look like you crawled out of a septic tank. Are you tripping already? He laughed again. “Man, I warned you about those shrooms!”

    “Frankie! We gotta go! They’re after us.”

    “Would you relax, bro,” he begged. “Ain’t nobody here. You hallucinating again. Like a lil’ bitch, is all,” and he laughed again.

    “There! Over there!” A voiced harked from the darkness. Jonah glanced behind him to spot two flashlights dancing about in the distance.

    Frankie spun on his heel, “Oh, shit!”

    1. derrdevil

      Hey guys! Sorry for the long hiatus. This story is a bit rough. Been a while since I wrote something (not that my other stories were any smoother). I do apologise though, because I forgot to add my italics in. Anyway, I’ll try to keep writing more. I miss it. Take care.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is very nice and atmospheric, Derrdevil. You did a wonderful job setting the scene and introducing the characters. There are a number of small things (verb tenses and the like) that could be cleaned up in an editing pass, but nothing earthshattering. At this point the story could go either supernatural or into a literary-style scare. Either way it would be entertaining. 🙂

      Welcome back! And yes, keep on writing!

  8. zenhorse

    Johnny and I were driving down the empty road carrying a camera and a map of Wonderworld, ten years expired. In the distance the outline of a roller coaster stretched into the sky, signaling that we had made it.
    Arriving at the entrance, I realized how modern and well-built the place really was. Were it not for the fact it was empty, I’d think it was still open.
    We entered through the main gate and before us the park came to life. The rides lit up, the signs glowed bright colors and carnival music played in the speaker systems.
    “What’s going on?” I asked. “I though this place was abandoned.”
    “I thought so too.” Johnny said. “We should check it out.”
    “I don’t know, I think we should turn back.” I was a little scared to say the least.
    “We can at least see if anyone’s here. Maybe they’re re-opening it or something.” I would have turned around myself but I didn’t want to leave Johnny behind. His parents would kill me. If only he didn’t love doing risky things.
    We explored the park while Johnny took pictures of everything on his phone. The souvenir shops were empty but the arcades still worked. I put a quarter in one and played a game of Pac-Man. Then we walked past the Wondercoaster and Johnny insisted we get on.
    “We might get in trouble.” I told him.
    “We’re already in trouble for being here. Can’t get much worse.” He ran off and got aboard the shuttle. He told me to stand near the control box and start the ride, like I knew how to do that. “Just press the big red button that says start.” I rolled my eyes and pressed it, and Johnny was off screaming. A minute later he was back feeling happy.
    “Dude try it. It’s fun!” He said.
    I sighed. “Okay, but only once. Then we leave.” I went on and Johnny pressed go. I was thrust forward, then downward, then in circles. I felt sick but I actually liked it. When the ride was finished, I got out and saw Johnny was gone. He must have ran off to the other rides.
    I started looking around and saw Johnny’s phone lying on the ground. It was opened to a video of Johnny filming me on the coaster. It starts with Johnny pressing the button and watching me fly off. Then he walks in front of the coaster and zooms in on me flying through the loops. He laughs, then stops, and then starts screaming at something off screen. He drops the phone and it goes dark with only Johnny’s voice heard begging for dear life before cutting off.
    As the video ends, the park begins to shut down all around me, leaving me alone in the dark. I think the speaker system was still on because I could hear laughter in the distance. It was getting louder each second.
    Come on Johnny, stop playing.

    1. Observer Tim

      This reads like the introductory scene of a thriller. You did a nice job setting up the park and introducing its strange and sinister nature. I can feel the screen suddenly cut to the opening credits, after which we will cut to our hero(es) finding out about the missing boys/men.

  9. Critique

    It’s the Truth

    Thunder boomed and rain drilled from angry skies as two boys sped on their bicycles down a deserted back road littered with pavements heaves and pot holes. A flash of lightning illuminated a large structure through silvery trees and they teetered towards it, grasses and weeds slapping and pulling at their bare legs.

    Huddled underneath the sagging boards of a dilapidated fence, the taller boy, Cam, pointed.

    “Jack.” Cam shouted above the wind. “Look.”

    Faded letters across a high gate spelled: Specter’s Playground and underneath it a sign reading: Keep Out!

    Jack’s eyes glistened with fearful delight. “Wow. Let’s check it out.”

    Leaving their bikes behind the boys squeezed through some broken boards and found themselves inside – in another world.

    Straight ahead a giant roller coaster spiralled grotesquely up into the sky. On the left an empty merry-go-round twirled crazily in the storm. A train track disappeared into a black tunnel on the right, the entry the mouth of a one-eyed monster.
    Standing close together the boys swiped at the rain streaming in their eyes and ventured forward, their hearts pounding in fearful curiosity.
    Beyond the merry-go-round loomed a rusted ferris wheel.
    Cam grabbed Jack’s arm. “What’s that?”
    On the ground in front of them, battered face to the elements, lay a gigantic man.
    “That’s Gulliver.” Jack whispered in Cam’s ear.

    Cam jerked back. “Do you hear that?”

    Quavery strains of music wafted around them growing in volume until the boys were covering their ears, as frozen in fascination they watched empty chairs sway on the now rotating ferris wheel.

    Out of the one-eyed monster’s mouth came a piercing whistle and a train chugged out, steam spouting from its cylinders.

    The merry-go-round twirled in sync with the music, its chained seats swinging out in precise formation, water arcing out in rainbow colors from lights now blazing on the poles surrounding the park.

    A high pitched keening sound blasted the air and a string of connected chairs careened around the metal loops of the roller coaster.

    Jack pointed at the giant lying on the ground. “It winked. Did you see?”

    Cam looked at the massive head and took a step back. “The eyes… they’re moving.”

    As one the boys turned and ran for the gate. Cam tripped, sprawling in the mud.
    Jack screamed. “Cam. Get up.”

    They pedalled their bicycles as if ravenous werewolves nipped at their heels.
    Cam’s house was closest.

    Jack dropped his bike on the driveway and panted, “No one’s ever gonna believe us.”

    Cam tossed his bike down too, his white face glancing back fearfully. “Yeah, I know.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh, that was great, especially getting into the minds of Jack and Cam. Better they keep their mouths shut ’cause they’re mystery afoot at the old park. Mabye one more trip to catch the giant sleeping and chain him to the grould ‘lest he wake up and ravage the town. Them they’re heroes, unless the giant breaks the chains and comes a lookin’.

    1. Observer Tim

      Now I can see why the sign said keep out. Apparently this amusement park sits in the zone near the edge where reality gets thin. I think the boys are lucky to have escaped. You did a great job portraying the strange and disturbing nature of the situation and the characters’ reactions. 🙂

  10. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Beginning, part 2, 1906
    As Homer snapped the reins to keep the reluctant horses on the rutted road, he marveled again at Sarah, the young woman sitting next to him with a carpet bag at her feet, and at the folly of his actions. Whatever possessed him to volunteer to drive her out to her family in the gathering dark. But, he reasoned, it wouldn’t be fitten for her, a lass as she called herself, to walk all that way. He was glad Sue Ann, his fiancée, was out of town.

    “So,” he cleared his throat, “you ever visited your folks here before?”

    “Ah, no, sir. This is my first time so far from home, so far from the hills.”

    That lovely voice, Homer thought again, like music. Her hair shining in the lantern’s golden glow like the coat of his prized filly after a good brushing… What foolishness is this, Homer asked himself, shining hair, indeed.

    “I reckon your people to be the Altizers. Only white folks I heard of out this way.”

    “Aye, sir…” Sarah started, but then gasped. “What might that be, there in the trees? Lights?”

    Homer pulled back on the reins. “Where? Ain’t but groves along this road.” He looked past her into the now black rows of trees, tried to keep his voice calm as he said, “Oh, must be grove workers, larkin’ about.” He loosened the reins and clucked the horses on, but they seemed as reluctant as he to continue. He pulled the light buggy whip from the holder, soon they were moving again. “I’ll talk to the foreman tomorrow, find out…” But, he thought, season’s over, workers should be north by now. What could the lights, moving and flickering in the void, mean?

    “Is that a clearing in the trees, where the lights be?” She asked so softly he could barely make out the words.

    “Good eyes you got,” Homer answered. “Used to be ever year after January crops was in and workers got their pay, a carnival come to town, set up tents out here in a bare patch. Mainly grove workers, black and white, went to waste their pay. I heard tales, not fit for ladies’ ears.”

    “I know of carnivals. My people…”

    “We closed off the land, no more of that foolishness. Funny thing though, nothing wants to grow there.” The horses finally broke into a trot. Homer thought he heard Sarah say something, but when he asked, she was silent until,

    “I think we be close,” she said and soon Homer saw a small house and a woman standing in the yard, holding a lantern.

    “Yep, your eyes are ’bout the best,” Homer said as he pulled the horses to a stop. “Sarah,” he began and before he could stop himself continued, “I’d be right pleased if I could call on you. We could take a drive in daylight. I could show you my land, my groves.” He helped her down and briefly held her small hand in his.

    “Aye, sir, I too would be pleased.” With that she hurried into the welcoming light.

    As he urged the horses quickly past the place where the lights had been Homer wondered if he’d heard right what Sarah had whispered when she saw the lights and earlier in the attic of his house.

    “Red haints,” he said aloud. “Why would she have said that.”

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Kerry, this is for you. Thanks so much. I was trying to do a recipe as if Sarah was speaking, but my brain is asleep. I expect to be writing this story for a long time.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is an excellent linking piece, Reatha. Even knowing where the story goes in the future I still find myself drawn into the backstory of Homer and Sarah. You did a great job showing the difference in perspective. 🙂

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      I was hoping that this prompt would bring out a The Girl story. 😀

      This is such a natural progression from the last part. Even the prompt part fits in just right. I’m looking forward to the continuation.

      My Internal Editor had one small nitpick:

      “I know of carnivals. My people…”
      “We closed off the land, no more of that foolishness.”

      It feels like he wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying. Or at the very worst, he cut her off. Maybe if you showed him hesitating about prying into her past or something like that, it wouldn’t seem so abrupt. But, as usual, that’s just my fifty-five cents. 🙂

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Cosi. I’m trying to show Horace as a bit full of himself, not truly “hearing” what anyone says, but only later questioning what was said. Sarah also talks very softly. Thanks for your close reading.

  11. Bushkill

    Amusement Park (I had to cut some to get down to 500 … and still am just a skosh over)

    I jolt awake grabbing my phone; its incessant flashing annoying in the kitchen’s darkness. A list of messages from my buddy, John, stares at me.

    Not good. I missed the meet for today’s fishing trip and am going to have to try to catch up to him at a diner instead.

    Still groggy I bounce from my chair at full speed, grabbing my hat, lunch, and phone on the way to the door. I swipe for my keys, miss them, and knock them into the cat’s water dish. I fish them out, smirking at the irony. Once in my car I slam it into drive and punch the gas, spewing rocks and gravel behind me as I race down the country road seeking the signpost that marks the shortcut I need to take to get to the diner.

    At the diner, John is snuffing out a cigarette and dropping the butt into the small pile growing at his feet. He shakes his head at me, “Dude!? What happened? Sunup. We need to be at the spot at sunup when the fish start to feed.” I wave him off, stash my gear in the back of his pickup, and climb into the cab.

    We fish on the back end of an abandoned amusement park, its dilapidated architecture staring at us with pitiless eyes. We laugh, remembering the good times in the park’s better days as we prep the lines.

    I finish first, an unlikely event with my tardiness documented and analyzed on the ride out, and launch my lure in a high arc, gossamer-like thread linking the rod to the spinning lure. The moment it hits the water my heart is rocketed into overdrive as the amusement park behind us surges to life. Lights wink awake and stab into the darkness and long dead speakers drone the old park tunes in a warbled mix of off key music and static pops.

    “Son of a …” The rest of John’s statement is lost in the sound of a rushing coaster. I watch him duck and turn to face the strangeness of the waking dead.

    My line goes taut and I set the hook. The tethered line leads to a rising boil in the water. From the bottom of the creek a mass of red rises. Too quickly it takes the form of a mass of curls, with the sloughed grey-white face and smeared greasepaint of a clown’s visage.

    I try to scream, turn, run, but my feet slip on the wet grass and slick mud. The sightless eyes in the too grey face of the clown tear at me as its hands grab me and drag me into the water.

    I scream a soundless scream…

    The phone alarm jars me awake and I shake a little in my seat trying to sort myself out. I grab my hat, lunch, and phone, noticing the list of texts. As I swipe for my keys they slip from hand and land in the cat’s water dish.

    A death like chill runs down my spine.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Bushkill!

      I was going to cry foul about the “It was just a dream” ending, but you stopped me with these two sentences: “As I swipe for my keys they slip from hand and land in the cat’s water dish.
      A death like chill runs down my spine.” They wrap up the story with such a strong feeling of foreboding. Great job! 🙂

    2. Observer Tim

      This is very clever, Bushkill. I like the way the amusement park is incidental to the story, more of a setting than a focus. I think if I were fishing and caught a zombie clown I’d throw it back… 🙂

      I’m not particularly happy with the “dream” ending but you gave it just enough of a twist to get away with it. Good job!

  12. break_of_day

    “Huh.”

    Master of understatement, that one.

    “It doesn’t even look like those things would run.”

    Steve was right. The amusement park rides were dirt-covered and looked like they hadn’t moved since the seventies. Until the whole place lit up and everything started moving at once, that is. About twenty seconds ago.

    “Let’s check it out,” I said. “Maybe they’re going to reopen it or something.”

    “They?”

    I shrugged. “You know. City government or something.”

    We walked along the chain-link fence for awhile, looking for a way inside. About a hundred yards later, we found a gash we could duck through. We hadn’t seen another person yet, and after a few minutes inside the fence that hadn’t changed.

    “Are these rides getting faster?” Steve asked. I stopped and studied one of those trains that goes in a wide circle, up and down a track with shallow, kid-friendly hills. The round lights decorating the train blurred into a long, neverending stream of white, like headlights in a time-lapse photo of a freeway.

    Yeah, it was getting faster. Too fast for little kids to ride. Too fast to stay on the tracks, maybe.

    Things were getting louder, too. The whole park starting to sound like one whirring entity, the noise of the moving parts drowning out any other sound.

    “Maybe we should head out!” I yelled to Steve, but he couldn’t hear what I said. I motioned toward the outside of the park, and he nodded.

    We took a couple steps, then the ground began to vibrate. I could feel, deep beneath my feet, something cracking and breaking apart. The ground seemed to raise up and we lost our footing. I scratched my hands on the pavement and banged my knee, but all I could focus on was the wind blowing dirt into my face as the park, and the land beneath it, rose higher and higher into the air. Chunks of earth broke off and fell into the space that had opened beneath us. We couldn’t see how far up we were, but in no time I was feeling lightheaded, either from the thinning air or the propulsion or the sensory assault.

    We were on a machine of some kind. Maybe a ship? More bits of land kept falling off and we scrambled to stay on board as our section of asphalt gave way. The machine began to tilt, and we slid down into a section that was half enclosed, where we could hold on as the thing tipped so that the rides were facing the earth below.

    A spaceship masquerading as an amusement park, then. How long would it be until we left the atmosphere? Until we ran out of air and died out here in the bones of the ship? I had no idea. I began to look around for a way inside the thing. We’d never seen any people, but someone had turned this thing on. We just needed to figure out how to get to them.

    1. Observer Tim

      Whoa, very clever Break. Once I could tell what was going on my brain started playing the five-note tone from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I can just imagine the lights on the rest of the craft! Great concept and very well-executed. 🙂

  13. Observer Tim

    CARNIVAL SHOWDOWN

    Okay, this is way over, but it completes a storyline that’s been running since July.

    The Last Loose End drives that ridiculous car of hers into the parking lot. It took her long enough to find the place; so much for Vixen the Great Detective.

    She sprints across the lot and leaps, landing atop the admission booth. She takes a quick look around and then shouts, “An amusement park? Real original, Tyree! What’s next, four kids and a Great Dane? You know, this would have been a lot scarier at night!”

    I grant her wish. My prepared incantation banishes the sunlight for a mile around; the second part activates the lights and music and starts up the rides. I send a projection of my old voice.

    “Is that better, child?”

    She shouts to the sky. “Hand over Wallflower now Tyree, and you won’t get hurt! Much!”

    “Find her yourself! Isn’t that what heroic little foxes do?” Just for fun I project her partner’s voice, “Save me, Vixen! I don’t know how long I can resist!”

    She bounces off the roller coaster and lands atop one of the ferris wheel cars, which carries her upward. She’s using the altitude to survey the park. Maybe she’s not as stupid as I thought.
    On the way down she leaps across the midway to the Slip’n Spin and from there ricochets onto the merry-go-round. She’s covering territory fast; time for phase two.

    The patrons rise out of the ground. Hundreds of shadows fill the park; to get this many I had to forego legs but having mist for a lower body doesn’t slow them down.

    She leaps down and starts kicking at them. Somehow her blows are connecting and shadows are flying around like ninepins.

    “Go Vixen!”

    I glower at the girl tied to the knife-throwing wheel and then return to my crystal. Vixen is moving through the crowd, beating the shadows easily, and making her way toward my lair. Does she know?
    When she opens the maintenance door to the Tunnel of Love I’m certain. She knows exactly where I am. Four seconds later she steps into the circus display area.

    “It’s over, Tyree. Let Wallflower go.”

    I gesture and the ropes release; my prisoner falls to her knees.

    “I said, let Wallflower go. This is your last chance.”

    “What are you talking about, child? There she is.”

    “That’s not her. Now let my friend go!”

    “How did you know?”

    “The same way I know that you’re weak right now. You’re probably using most of your magic just to hold the illusion of your old form, aren’t you?”

    She strides towards me. I back away; she’s right, curse it all to Hades. Possessing a new body is difficult and Wallflower’s mind is still resisting. I can’t use her powers or mine yet! But I do have something else: minions.

    “Get her!”

    A squad of daemons leap out at her as she jumps at me. But her reflexes are faster; her hands close around my throat…

    …and she vanishes.

    I scream my annoyance, “What kind of trickery is this?”

    My own voice speaks back, “It’s getting a little crowded in here.”

    That little bitch! Somehow she’s possessing this body too! That’s not possible; only two people ever knew how to cast this spell, and the other one is dead! Or so he would have me think.

    “Doctor Arcanum, what are you doing here?”

    “He isn’t, Tyree. It’s only Vixen; Doc Arcanum just gave me the magic charm.”

    “Then this will be easy; I’ll crush both of you beneath my will.”

    “I don’t know, Wallflower and I are pretty remarkable when we work together. I may only be a B-list hero, but she’s on your level.”

    “If she’s on my level, why isn’t she resisting me?”

    I was waiting for the right moment.

    I explode; the force throws my daemons against the walls where they splash into ectoplasm. Everything dissolves in a cataclysm of light and darkness.

    A moment later I come to my senses. I’m lying on the floor in my previous body, the one I took from Enchantress before these two were born.

    Vixen is standing there, as is Wallflower. In my current weakened state I can’t take both of them. But I can ruin their lives.

    I say three words in my native Atlantean; they comprise a spell that will take away Vixen’s fox powers forever.

    Vixen looks at me. “That tickles.”

    “You’re supposed to feel crippling weakness. I took away your fox powers!”

    “I guess so. And while you were doing that, Wallflower was mucking with your brain so you won’t even remember who she is.”

    “What are you talking about? There are only two of us here.”

    “You’re right, I guess. I’ll just be going now.”

    She holds out her arm as if someone else is going to take it, then casually walks out the door. A moment later she leans in with a smirk.

    “And by the way, you got the wrong animal. I never did have fox powers; I just dress like one.”

    1. snuzcook

      I really like these characters, Tim, and look forward to every story you post featuring them. I am always impressed by the detail of the worlds you create. This time one line struck me as such a great example of that talent: “The patrons rise out of the ground. Hundreds of shadows fill the park; to get this many I had to forego legs but having mist for a lower body doesn’t slow them down.”

      Love the twist about Vixen’s identity at the end. Leaves me wondering…

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Snuz. I’ve been dropping hints about Vixen’s real animal powers since near the beginning and figured it was time to get a bit more obvious. Just because your dad got his powers from a fox spirit doesn’t mean you’ll be visited by the same fate…

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You’re in another creative world from the rest of us, Tim. I don’t know how else to express my thoughts on this. There is so much descriptive power, action and chaos churning at the same time, I need a drink after reading this. Where does all the creation come from? Are you magical yourself?

        1. Observer Tim

          I’m not a magical being, Kerry, I just happen to live in the dimension next door. I grew up looking for critters peeking out from under red wagons and behind chimneys, an an army of miniaturized Czech paratroopers hiding in an unmown lawn. As much as you enjoy my talent for the odd, I find the same in seeing how you bring out the magic in the “regular” world. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hey, OT!

      I’m glad you continued this story line. It’s always a pleasure to read about these characters. 🙂

      Just so you know, this part made me smile -> “An amusement park? Real original, Tyree! What’s next, four kids and a Great Dane?” 😀

  14. cosi van tutte

    Whoa! This was much longer and darker than I’d intended. It’s a continuation of the story I started with the “Ghostbuster for Hire” prompt.

    She looked at him. So calm and steady. Expressionless. A well-trained killer.

    He tugged on his chains, but they refused to give. “Does it have to end like this, Elsie?”

    “You know the answer.”

    “I love you.”

    Her jaw tightened.

    “I know. I know it isn’t right. A vampire and his hunter. Such a relationship is doomed to fail. But, Elsie. Elsie.” He tried to stand, but the chains binding his wrists to the wall were too short. He’d have to stand in a stooped position. Even though he hated the inequality of the situation, he sat down on the cold stone floor. “Give me a chance.”

    “I did. You betrayed my trust.”

    He pulled on the chains with all of his unnatural strength. They still refused to give. “I am sorry. If I could do anything to make it right—”

    “You can’t bring back the dead. No one can.”

    “And if you kill me—”

    “I will kill you. I must. It is what I am.”

    “Is that all that you are, Elsie? A killer and nothing more?” He smiled and shook his head. “No, you are more than that. I know you, Elsie. I know you.”

    Elsie stepped forward and pressed the stake against Ambrose’s throat. “Stop talking.”

    He made eye contact with her. His black eyes looked into her gold-colored eyes. And, in that one perfect moment, neither he nor she needed to speak. Everything that could be said, everything that needed to be said, passed between them. And they understood each other perfectly.

    She touched his chest with the tip of her stake.

    “Remember those moonless nights when it was just you and I.”

    “You were alive then and not this…” Tears trailed down her face. “You’re just another monster.”

    “Then, why are you crying? Elsie, if you love me—”

    She tapped the side of her stake and a thin needle penetrated his chest.

    The heady pine scent of rosemary and witch hazel filled him with a senseless euphoria. He fell back against the wall, seeing nothing and everything and it was all wonderful.

    Elsie spoke, but her words came out as ribbons of color and flowers and blood. It was all so very wonderful.

    ***

    to be continued….

    1. cosi van tutte

      Continuation/conclusion…..

      Ambrose woke to a witch hazel hangover, which meant that everything hurt. It wasn’t a polite “I think I might need a doctor” hurt. It was the savage, wrenching hurt of thousands of stakes raking through every skin layer – piercing him but not killing him.

      He screamed a harsh scream, which degenerated into an uneven growl into a moan into a garbled stream of archaic curse words. He curled forward and dug his fingers into his hair, begging for unconsciousness or death to take him.

      The pain lasted for two hours.

      It left him exhausted and unable to think or feel or move. He lay still as if he were dead.

      His senses snapped into sharp focus as a red fox slipped out of the bushes. Hungry… he thought. So hungry…

      The fox stopped and stared at the downed man. It funneled its ears forward.

      Hungry!

      It raised a black-socked leg.

      Ambrose scrambled up to his feet and promptly vomited his last meal.

      The fox fled into the bushes.

      Ambrose snarled and stumbled after the animal. “You won’t get away from me. I’ll find you. I’ll get you. I’ll bite you and—”

      Reality thwacked him with its big bad bada-boom stick. He stopped running and looked down at his wrists. No shackles. No chains. He glanced around. No prison cell. “Why?” He frowned. “Why didn’t she kill me when she had the chance?”

      The fox yipped on the other side of a yew bush crowd.

      Ambrose thrashed his way through the bushes. His stomach growled, wild with hunger. He was ready to bite anything with blood coursing through its veins.

      He stepped out of the yews into a vast clearing. The tumbled, jumbled ruins of an amusement park laid claim to the clearing as surely as the clearing laid claim to it. Vines twined the frames for the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Whooshing Gondola of Doom, the Ferris wheel, and the Plop ’em Drop ’em Sop ’em. The rides’ seating arrangements, however, had joined the concession stands as grass and wildflower covered lumps. They looked like burial mounds.

      Only the ticket stand remained untouched by nature and time.

      The fox jumped up on the ticket stand’s window ledge. It scratched the window with its narrow black feet.

      Ambrose bared his fangs and tried to charge forward. He couldn’t move.

      He needed an invitation.

      “Blast it all to oblivion’s end! It’s an amusement park. An amusement park! It’s a public place.”

      The fox stopped his window scratching and jumped off the ledge.

      “I shouldn’t need an invitation to enter a public place.”

      The fox strolled over to Ambrose and stopped a hand’s-reach in front of him.

      Ambrose growled a long list of profanities.

      The fox grinned and turned into a woman in a flowing red dressing gown. “Hello, Ambrosia.”

      He gasped. “Maria. I thought—Mark…He sent you away. You’re gone.”

      “But here I am.” She smiled. “Now, isn’t that a nice mystery for you to work on?”

      “Maria. Invite me in. I want to be with you. I want—”

      “Oh, my dear Ambrosia. I know what you want.” She turned into Mark Caten, all dressed up in his fine Armani suit.

      Ambrose snarled.

      “You want to chase ghosts, you poor stupid sap. Maria is gone. She will never come back to you. As for Elsie? Well, we both know that she will never forgive the things that you’ve done.” His smile turned obnoxious. “The people you’ve killed. She surrendered you to me.”

      Ambrose wanted to object, but then he remembered Elsie’s tears. “Invite me in.”

      “Oh, don’t worry. I—”

      “Invite me in. NOW!”

      “Why? So, you can kill me? I am no one’s fool.”

      “What do you want from me?”

      “That would be a secret.” Mark smirked. “I give you permission to enter this area.”

      Ambrosia rushed forward, knocked Mark to the ground, and bit his neck. No blood flowed into his mouth.

      Mark disappeared.

      Ambrosia sat back on his heels. “I don’t understand.”

      ***

      Mark Caten smiled at the monitor. “Poor foolish Ambrosia.” He turned to face a man in a black suit. “So? What do you say?”

      “I’m impressed. I think he will be a popular attraction.”

      “Oh, I’m sure he will be.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh wow! what an ending you’re written here. A vampire to add to a collection of freaks. Why is it I know somehow he’s going to escape and jump onto this website and cause total havoc?

      2. Observer Tim

        A fitting end, Cosi. At least Elsie will still be able to see him… 🙂

        The writing on this is beautifully emotional, and the dialogue does a great job highlighting the emotional intensity of the description. Of course, now you have me wondering who the MiB is, but that is a question for another time.

      3. snuzcook

        Wonderful, Cosi! The Elsie & Ambrose scenes drew me in and then you took me for a wonderful adventure ending with a mystery. This one has it all. Lots of emotional connections with all the characters, and plenty of question marks to whet my appetite for more and more.

      4. Annamae

        I really liked this story, I read another little short one of Elsie and Ambrosia in a different area of this forum. I have to say I really enjoy the characters. I like the fact that A will be an attraction, if that is what you were going for. I am new to writing and lol I have been lurking. Reading what others have written. I am just trying to figure out where to start. Anyway totally off base. I love it leaves me wanting more!

  15. Amaria

    Every year I passed this haunting place I don’t know why I insisted on driving down this road. But every year I returned to this sleepy town, visiting family and old friends who never left. And every year I remembered you I rode by the abandon amusement par.

    It was a shell of its former glory. I never stop to take a look – not until this year. I suppose it was foolish to stop after dark. It made the place even creepier. But I stopped anyway.

    Cautiously I walked passed the broken down front gate. The dead leaves crunched underneath my footsteps. I spotted the merry-go-round that I rode on countless times in my youth. As I walked towards it, something changed.

    It was no longer dark but bright as midday in summer. The merry-go-round was moving, filled with children and adults. I smelled popcorn and cotton candy from the nearby stand. I then saw you – sitting on top of the moving horse, with me at your side. We were laughing as the merry-go-round circled around. When the ride was over we ran to the concession stand, buying a bag of pink cotton candy. We sat on a nearby bench, devouring the candy before it began to stick to our fingers.

    We looked so young and alive. The sun shined down on your hair, bringing out its hidden natural highlights. We watched some of the other kids walk by and pointed out the cute boys. It seemed so real. Slowly I walked towards the vision, not sure if I was seeing ghosts or dreaming. I reached out to touch your hair and felt the softness against my fingertips.

    I suddenly heard someone call out my name. I jumped and turned around. It was night time and the park was empty and void of life, back to its decrepit condition. I saw the officer holding a flashlight in his hand. It was Tim. We went to high school together.

    “Are you okay Shelly?” Tim asked. “I saw an empty car on the side of road. I was looking around when I spotted you here.”

    I looked around, confused about what I just experience. Was I losing my mind?

    “Are you alright Shelly?” Tim asked again. “You looked as if you saw a ghost or something.”

    Perhaps I did – more than just a mere ghost. But I only nodded saying, “I’m fine. I was just going down memory lane.”

    Tim nodded though not sure if he really believed me. “Do you want me to walk you back to your car?”

    “Sure” I answered.

    As we walked back to my car, I looked over my shoulder again, hoping to see my friend. But she was no longer there, like so many other things in this park. It was the reason why I hated coming back. This place was our favorite place to go. The vision brought back memories of our youth, before the world starting falling apart. It was the good times we had before the awkwardness of adolescence, the teasing, the fighting, being told you’re not good enough. It was before you decided to take a gun to your head and left me to pick up the pieces.

    1. Chad J. O'Brien

      Not the ending I expected. Some typos. Some awkward sentence/word structure. But extremely well written in terms of description. And it had that kind of why-isn’t-this-person-an-author vibe that makes someone laugh. Because with a little bit of editing you could turn this into the outline of a book I’d pay money for. Awesome! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      I actually did not find this story so much depressing as poignant. The last line explained the first lines, and that was perfect. The “we looked so young…” paragraph painted such a vivid picture with just a few words. Well done.

  16. igonzales81

    The haze behind us was so thick we couldn’t see ten feet. But ahead of us, decked out in decaying splendor, sat a bona fide amusement park, something that looked like it had been yanked out of 1930’s Coney Island.

    We certainly hadn’t started out looking for something like this. When our car spun off the road a few miles back, all we’d hoped for was a gas station. But after two hours of trudging through the thickest fog bank I’d ever seen, we were here, at what a faded, worm-eaten sign proclaimed was the Purveyance of Excitement Theme Park.

    Strangely enough, it all felt familiar. The carousel with its wooden horses, the paint peeling and poles rusted. The concession stands, with their sun-bleached decals and yellowed-paper menus, the interiors filled with shadows and the stench of food gone bad. And overhead, dwarfing everything else, rose an amazing roller coaster, timber pilings white and splintered with age, with gravity-defying drops and corkscrew turns that made me dizzy just looking at it. It was like something out of a half-remembered dream…

    “Dude, this is seriously weird,” Jay spoke beside me, breaking the spell.

    I glanced over at him, that look I have to give whenever he states the painfully obvious.

    “I mean, this shouldn’t be here,” he held up a map. “Nothing like this on State Route 11.”

    I shook my head, dismissing his interruption. I tried to remember where I’d seen it before, why it…beckoned me. I took a step forward.

    The park came to life. The carousel started up, wooden horses prancing in circles to a tune that would have been eerie even on a sunny day. The faint sounds of voices came from the stands, hawking cotton candy and lemonade, accompanied by a whiff of buttered popcorn. A train of cars raced along the rails above us, rattling and thundering, laughter and shrieks of delight echoing in the still air. I thought I could see faint images, people, men dressed in straw boaters and striped jackets, women with bobbed haircuts wearing summer dresses, children skipping along holding balloons.

    “Oh my…,” Jay hadn’t moved an inch. He just stood there, face pale, eyes the size of plates and jaw slack. “We have got to get out of here.”

    What he said made sense. Ordinarily, I would have the first to tuck tail and run from something like this. But it was so maddening, this feeling I had. It made me want to stay, to find out what was going on here.

    I glanced up at the sign again. It seemed to shift and change, one minute old and dilapidated, the next new and pristine. Purveyance of Excitement Theme Park. Maybe I just didn’t have enough excitement in my life. Maybe I had to see this place, experience it, find out why I was here.

    Maybe when the car hit that slick patch and left the road, it hadn’t been an accident. Maybe I was meant to find this place.

    Or maybe the accident had been worse than I thought, and I was as much a ghost as everything around me.

    Either way, I was here, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet.

    I kept walking forward.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, igonzales!

      This was a wonderfully atmospheric story. I suspect that the MC is dead, but Jay is either in a coma or he just isn’t ready to move on.

      And, just so you know, Purveyance of Excitement is a great name for a theme park. 🙂

  17. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    “You are exploring with a friend when you stumble upon an abandoned amusement park. You eagerly start to approach it, but as you get closer, the lights suddenly come on and the rides start to move. Do you keep going to find out what’s happening or do you run away as fast as you can?”

    He leans back in his chair and frowns. “What kind of question is that?”

    “Leland, you promised you’d take our session seriously.”

    “How am I supposed to do that when you aren’t asking serious questions?”

    “If you’ll indulge me for only a few more questions, it’ll be over before you know it.”

    He crosses his arms. “Fine.”

    “Now, do you investigate or explore?”

    “Explore.” He curtly replies.

    Mona nods. “If you had a choice, which place would to go to first? Would it be the Merry-Go-Round, the House of Mirrors, or the Side Show Attraction?”

    He shakes his head. “I have no idea, I guess the side show.”

    “What do you see there?”

    He huffs. “This is stupid.”

    “Come on, Leland, what do you see?”

    He lets out an exasperated sigh. “It’s a man.”

    “What kind of man?”

    “I dunno, I can barely tell.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “He’s faded, like he’s not really there.”

    “Okay, does he have a name?”

    “Victor, I guess,” he says, and shrugs.

    “What does Victor do at this side show?”

    A nervous sweat breaks across his body. He doesn’t know if he should tell her what Victor does. He tries to think of other things the man does, but there isn’t anything else. Victor is what he is, and no matter how hard he tries to change it, he can’t.

    He nods. “This is stupid.”

    “Leland.”

    After rolling his eyes to ensure she understands that he does this under protest, he says, “He kills people.”

    She nods.

    He asks, “What?”

    She taps the pen against her notebook. “How does he kill people?”

    “Why does it matter?” It’s suddenly colder in the room.

    “It matters to me. Listen, just answer the question. All this will be over soon.”

    “He strangles them.”

    “Who’s them?”

    “The children,” He purses his lips.

    “How many children are there?”

    “I dunno.” He does know, but she doesn’t know that. He looks away.

    “Think,” she says, and leans forward, “think real hard.”

    “This is stupid,” He says, but she only stares. “Okay, fuck, thirteen!”

    She nods, and sits back. “What are their names?”

    “I dunno… how the fuck am I supposed to know that?”

    “Humor me.”

    “I’ll humor you all right,” he says under his breath, but when she raises her eyebrows, he blurts out, “Katie, Cassi, Alice, Greg, Bonnie, James, Frank, Darren, Patty, Vinny, Kelly, Park, and Vicky.”

    She nods.

    “Are we done?”

    “Almost,” she says, and the pauses to take an obscenely deep breath. “What does he do with them?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Come on.”

    He shakes his head. “He probably buries them.”

    “Does he?”

    “I guess.”

    “Where would he do that?”

    “Fuck if I know.”

    “Leland.”

    “What?”

    “You promised.”

    He huffs. “I guess maybe a big lake off interstate 45.”

    “Very good.”

    “Are we done, now?”

    “We are,” she says, and closes her pen, sets it on the table between us, and picks up a lighter. She torches the end of bushel of incense sticking out of a silver bowl.

    “I thought we were done?”

    As she wafts her hand over the smoldering spices she says, “We are.”

    “Can I go?”

    “Soon,” she says, and closes her eyes.

    A moment later, he feels his body burning from the inside. He screams, but no one can hear him. The intensity becomes worse with every second, and then he’s gone.

    A tall man walks into the room. He says, “Did you find out what he did with them?”

    “Yes,” she says, and looks at the emptiness in front of her where Victor Leland Harris’s spirit once sat.

    The man nervously asks, “Is—is he gone?”

    “I believe so,” she says. “He’s been in this amusement part for a long time. I can tell this place is glad to be rid of him.”

    “Well, I don’t know about any of that, but the families will be glad to have some closure.”

    “True enough. What about Alex Cordova?”

    He shakes his head. “Not much I can do there. It’ll be hard to convince the court he was possessed.”

    She nods. “I suppose you’re right. Just do what you can. He doesn’t deserve this fate. None of the men Victor possessed over the years does.”

    “Yes, ma’am. I’ll do my best.”

    She looks one last time at the spot where Victor last sat, and sighs. It’s finally over, but for some, it’s still only the beginning.

      1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

        Thanks, OT! I actually wanted to be more authentic with the exorcism stuff, so I did a lot of research on how to banish spirits in Catholicism, but to get it right and not tarnish the Catholic religion (I have some respect for people… sometimes), it would take too many words. Ah, well, next time!

        1. Observer Tim

          I know the feeling. Last year I wrapped a story around the communion service (In Hora Mortis Nostrae for Oh the Choices), I had to take extreme care to choose the referenced bits carefully. The exorcism service is a lot more obscure, deliberately so on the part of the Catholic Church because they don’t want people playing around with it. The psychological interview/medium session worked perfectly and is probably more accessible to people who aren’t liturgy nuts.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You know Jay, this normally isn’t in my comfort zone but I actually loved this story, not only for your skill but my brother-in-law’s name was Leland Claire Hunter Jr. Not to many people knew for from childhood, everyone called him Bud Hunter. He was quite a guy, he had to be to capture my sister. She’ll be 89 on the sixteenth and still going strong. She doesn’t even have a doctor, maybe that’s why.

  18. SheepCarrot

    I wander in the shadows, the shapes of the abandoned amusement park rides silhouetted against the full moon in the night sky. Walking these grounds became my nightly ritual years ago, and no amount of deterioration will change that.

    I hear the creak of the ornate but rusted iron gate that was once the beautiful entry way into the park, and I slip behind one of the ticket booths by the carousel. Three teenage boys squeeze between the slight opening, like city rats into a sewer grate. Their chatter is incessant, but I’m only able to catch bits and pieces.

    “…did you find it?”

    “So cool.”

    “Mom told me…closed since the ‘50’s.”

    “…haunted…call it the Caretaker.”

    “Don’t be stupid. That’s not real.”

    “You scared?”

    Their words become clearer the closer they get, and I can’t help but feel like they’re intruding into my special space. As I watch, the lights to the carousel flicker and the platform begins to turn. Broken music fills the air. All three of the boys jump.

    “What the—”

    “Hell no!”

    “Did you touch something?”

    All three speak at once, talking over each other in their shock. As they focus on the carousel, the ferris wheel and fun house both light. Sounds of laughter join the eerie music, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy waft through the air.

    “Screw this, man, let’s get out of here!”

    One of the boys looks around with his flashlight, clearly uneasy when he discovers that the power lines have long since been in an operable state. Rusted out, chewed through by squirrels, destroyed by weather, winds, and debris.

    They stand so close, yet remain unseeing. I stomp through the fun house, the lights and warped mirrors making my appearance more dramatic. “Do you see that?” one boy asks the others with an unsteady voice. I see a flash from the camera before all three boys flee in terror. The lights and music fade as they leave the gates, abandoning me to my personal hell.

    I pass the Tunnel of Love as I walk through the park alone. This is where it started. I convinced our parents to let me take him to the park, that I would look after him. Then a cute boy from my school class—much like any of those three just here—started talking to me, and for a moment I forgot about my brother. While my back was turned, he drowned in the slow-moving water of the “romantic” ride. The water there now is stagnant, filthy and smelling of decomposing leaves that have fallen in.

    I turn away and move on, my heart breaking again. I climb the roller coaster, slat by slat, until I’m atop the highest crest. I look down, me tears blurring the view below. It’s changed from that day, but somehow it’s all the same. My guilt weighs on my heart just as heavy as it did nearly sixty years ago. This is where I jumped that day.

    Who am I? Through the years I’ve forgotten the name my parents gave me. Now I only know myself by what the superstitious and fearful nicknamed me.

    I’m the Caretaker.

    1. snuzcook

      Well done, SheepCarrot. Very visual. Good atmospheric imagery. The premise is revealed at a good pace, and the tone of the ending, where the narrator embraces her role, is uplifting and tragic at the same time.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, SheepCarrot!

      Just so you know, I really enjoyed this story. It was a very cool take on this prompt. And this part is both tragic and just plain awesome (I can’t even explain why it’s awesome. It just is.):

      “Who am I? Through the years I’ve forgotten the name my parents gave me. Now I only know myself by what the superstitious and fearful nicknamed me.

      I’m the Caretaker.”

      1. SheepCarrot

        Thanks, Cosi, for the compliments and the feedback! It took me some tweaking to get that bit right, and I still wasn’t too sure I had. I was still switching it around just before I posted it, but put it back to this version as it felt like it had more impact than the other couple ways I worded it.

      1. SheepCarrot

        You’re welcome, Lucretia, and thank you for taking the time to comment! I had a lot of fun writing this one. I tried to keep the fact that our ghost was narrating under wraps until she decided to introduce herself. I’m happy you enjoyed it. 🙂

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is just wonderful. Every word, every phrase works. I think you used the three teens so very well to relate the Caretaker myth before he presents the reality.

  19. pinkbamboo

    Alright, let’s go!

    ******************************************

    “That’s freaky” I whispered as I turned to David. He nodded but his eyes were transfixed by the sights and sounds in front of him. Music was playing, rides were spinning but no one was around.

    “Let’s go home” I turned around but he caught my arm.

    “Wait.. Claire .. wait. Don’t you want to explore a little?” he nudged me with his shoulder.

    “This place? Why did it turn on by itself? That’s creepy” I shrugged.

    “Come on Claire. Let’s run around for about 5 minutes, then we go. Where’s your sense of adventure?” David laughed.

    I looked at the carousel in front of me, turning and spinning with the horses moving up and down. David took my hand and ran towards the horses and with one swift jump, he was up. I hesitated but I quickly jumped on before I changed my mind.

    “I told you this would be fun” David winked at me as he stood up unsteadily on a horse.

    “Jeez Dave. Be careful” I was the mother hen again. I can’t help it, I had always been the worrywart.

    It was a nice windy quiet night. The music was enchanting and I was enjoying the moment when I turned to David. He was not there. I called out his name and ran around in a circle twice. The eerie feeling returned. I was alone.

    “Claire, here” I turned towards the voice and David was standing near a small hut.

    “David, where the fuck did you go?” I jumped down and ran towards him. I was so relief to see him, anger became a secondary feeling.

    “I saw this and I just had to get a closer look. Claire, the house of mirrors” he grinned and gestured towards the hut.

    “No, David. You said 5 minutes. Let’s go” I tugged on his arm urgently.

    “We’ll go directly after this. I promise” he took my hand again.

    I groaned and reluctantly followed him into the house of mirrors. David, being a big kid was chuckling while making faces in front of the mirrors while I stood there, sulking.

    Oh, is that a pimple? I leaned forward to have a closer look, momentarily distracted by the new intrusion on my nose when I saw something white ran by from the mirror. I froze.

    “David, let’s go” I turned and no one was there.

    Then from the corner of my eyes, I saw it again. Something blue and yellow zipping across. A chuckle. The sound of a balloon being blown. I gasped and I started crying.

    Get a grip, Claire. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and when I open them, I will run. I will run to the car and then I’ll figure out where David is.

    The sound stopped and I opened my eyes slowly. Had I imagined it all? Then right in front of me .. the white face, the red nose and the twinkly eyes. A creature I had known and feared. A clown.

    “Why do you look so sad?” he turned his mouth upside down to emphasize sadness.

    I looked away but I couldn’t. Everywhere I turned, there he was. In the mirrors.

    “Let me make you happy” he smiled and to my horror, his tongue stuck out. His forked tongue.

    I screamed and ran quickly, trying to find my way out. Somehow I made it out and I kept running with tears down my face.

    “Claire! Claire!”

    David? I stopped and turned to my left where the booths were. David’s hands were tied to the table and I ran to him but as I got nearer, David managed to free himself and he was coming towards me. I stopped when I realized as he got nearer, it wasn’t David. My tears were clouding my sight but a blob of blue and yellow was what I saw running towards me.

    “I will make you happy, Claire”

    I screamed and ran towards the entrance, towards the car. I had no idea how near he was behind me but I kept running. The music was suddenly, almost evil and my whole body turned cold. I ran until I knocked into something.

    “Claire!”

    I looked up and saw David. He immediately helped me up and hugged me.

    “Where did you go?” he asked angrily.

    I looked behind me. The music had stopped. No one was chasing me anymore.

    “I went looking for you. You jumped off the carousel and went to the house of mirrors” I gestured all over the place.

    “What are you talking about? I was never off the carousel. I looked for you in circles” he looked confused.

    “I want to go home, David. Let’s go back” I started crying again.

    He nodded and we ran back to the car. David drove and as we left the place, the park became dark again. We drove in silence, I didn’t want to talk but David held my hand. He tried to apologize but I didn’t want to hear it. I was terrified, confused .. I can’t be angry anymore.

    What happened back there? Was it all my imagination? Who was I with if that wasn’t David? I shuddered when I thought about it. David saw that and rubbed his hand on mine as a comfort gesture.

    “Let’s listen to some music okay?” he said quietly. I nodded with a small smile.

    A classical tune came up and I leaned back. Then the lyrics ..

    “I want to make you happy .. Claire” ..

    1. Observer Tim

      Whoo, big time creepy. You did a great job building the atmosphere and tension, perfect for the surreal nature of the park. The overall effect was terrifying and chilling. Wonderful job! 🙂

      It’s good to have you back, Pink.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I hate clowns myself and you drew me in to the park with you. I also hated carrrousels because I always threw up after riding one. But your story was spot on. We’ve missed you here.

  20. Cynthia Page

    Eerie Carnival

    Keith and I walk hand in hand toward home from the drive-in movie. It’s long after dark. We snuck in when the lights went out and the cartoons and food ads started. We got out after the last movie through the same whole in the fence. The air choked us with all the dust kicked up by a thousand cars, it seemed, all headed for the same exit gate. Teenagers spun their tires in the sand, making it worse, but we got out from under the dust cloud by hiking the opposite way.

    Hiking through weeds, we pass the old red schoolhouse, or a replica, anyway. We’re heading cattycorner to the right across a huge field toward our street. On the left side of the field is a big empty lot that had never been used, far as I could tell.

    Keith sees me looking that way. He says, “You know, that lot’s haunted.”

    “No it ain’t. You can’t fool me anymore. I may be a girl, but I’m seven now. I’m not dumb anymore. Ghosts and goblins don’t exist.”

    He says, “No, really, I’m not fooling.” He looks down at me from nearly a foot up, trying to convince me. Mom says he’s growing like the weeds, and I believed her. “Dad told me about it.”

    “Nu-uh, he didn’t,” I shoot back.

    “He shore did, I promise.” That’s how he talks sometimes, like a hick, ‘specially when he’s teasing me. I laugh at his hick voice and push through a patch of weeds taller than me.

    Haunted or not, we never go there. Our street is on the opposite corner from the empty lot, and home is two blocks down from that. I walked by that lot all the time walking the dog, but I never went there, and nobody else did, far as I knew.

    Keith tells me, “Dad says there was a horrible accident there nigh on sixty years ago, before he was even born. He said there was a fire.”

    I stared to believe just about then, ‘cause the night sky lit up. We stop. We can’t move a muscle; at least I don’t. I hear carnival sounds – barkers calling people, recorded shrieks, the brassy music of rides, and all kinds of crowd sounds. We turn our heads, and I see something that isn’t possible. I can’t see over the weeds, but circling in the sky is a huge Ferris wheel, all lit up with strings of lights and swaying seat buckets. Recorded laughter comes from another ride, and someone hawks cotton candy with a megaphone. I don’t see anyone in the Ferris wheel seats, though.

    Keith asks me, “Do you see that? When did the carnival set up?”

    I pull his hand in the opposite direction as I whisper, “That wasn’t there before the movie.”

    “Could have set up since. We stayed for both movies, and a half hour in between. I heard carnivals set up real fast.” He seems mesmerized by the music and lights.

    1. Cynthia Page

      My arm-skin puckers into bumps, and the hair on my neck itches. Those screams don’t sound recorded anymore.

      “Keith, come on. I’m scared.” I pulled harder.

      A voice yells out, “Come on in, kids. Have some fun in the shooting gallery, get some hot dogs. Take a seat for the show. Next one starts in five minutes, plenty of time for cotton candy and popcorn. Come on in, kids…” I think he was talking to us. Now my neck really itches.

      Keith seems hypnotized by the music and lights. He mutters to himself, “Yeah, popcorn and hot dogs.”
      His stomach would fit a house, the way he eats. His hand slips out of mine, and he heads out through tall weeds he doesn’t seem to feel brushing his arms. I freeze, ‘cause I don’t want to get any closer. I would much rather run the other way. But he’s my brother, and he’s gotten me out of plenty of scrapes with Dad. So, I run after him with weeds whipping my face.

      “Keith…Keith! KEITH!” STOP!”

      I run around him and stop in his path. He walks right through me, like he’s not there. NO, that can’t happen. I run in front of him again. This time I plant my feet and hold my hands out chest high, hands cocked to stop him cold. Again, he walks right through me. One more time, I run around him, this time putting my leg out to trip him up. He runs into it, knocking me down, and he staggers to a stop. For just a sec, it seems he’ll keep going, but he looks at me and something changes in his eyes.

      “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to ride the rides?” His unfocused eyes look back toward the carnival.

      “Don’t you hear those screams? Those aren’t recorded.”

      Behind the Ferris wheel, a huge canvas tent starts to blaze. The empty buckets now hold people waving their arms and screaming. Backlit by the fire, their clothes seem from another place and time. As the flames grow, engulfing the entire tent top, I pull Keith toward home.

      He finally turns away, and we run ‘like hell bent for leather.’ (Don’t tell Dad I swore; I heard that in a movie.) The screams grow louder as we get further away, and that’s eerie as all get-out. When we reach the corner, we look back. It’s gone. The empty lot is pitch dark, and the lights are out at the drive-in. My arms pucker again. We scream and run the last two blocks in record time.

      1. Observer Tim

        Delightful ghost story, Cynthia. You painted a detailed and frightening picture in a relatively few words, and got the voice of the main character perfect. I was a little confused about a seven-year old knowing what a megaphone was, but then my brain registered “drive-in movie” which steered it back to the right time period. Overall this is excellent! 🙂

        1. Cynthia Page

          Thanks, Doc. It would have been much longer if I let them explore the carnival. So I had to stop them before they got there. These characters wanted more than I could give them.

  21. Doug Langille

    THE SHORTCUT
    ============

    ** using characters from a work in progress. Sam is a young witch with world-changing abilities that her family’s rivals would kill for **

    Samantha walked backwards holding her best friend’s hands as she dragged her into the dark. “Fraidy Cat,” she taunted.

    Erin yanked her arms away and continued to protest, her voice shaky. “I dunno, Sam. The park is closed.”

    “The park has been closed for years. What’s the big deal?”

    “It’s dark. You don’t know who’s here.”

    “No one is here. Look, the quickest way to my house is through the carnival. You want to see Dorian, don’t you?”

    “Yes, but—”

    “But nothing. My brother’s only home for the weekend. He came to see me. I want to hang with him.”

    Erin tucked her hands into the cuffs of her sweater and folded her arms. “Fine, but let’s hurry. This place creeps me out.”

    “Fraidy Cat.”

    “Witch.”

    Sam nearly stumbled at hearing that word but recovered her balance. Erin wouldn’t curse of her life depended on it. ‘Witch’ would have to be fine. She laughed. “Let’s go.”

    A lone street light shone brightly over the abandoned trucks and trailers, casting long and winding shadows. The girls scampered stealthily between puddles of light like they used to do as children, playing ‘hot lava’ in their living rooms.

    On the other side, the lamplight grew dim and it became hard to tell shadow from darkness. They ambled carefully through the rides, towering twisted sea monsters in the ocean of night.

    “What was your favourite ride?” asked Erin, her voice echoing louder than seemed possible.

    Sam jumped at the break in silence. Sure, she put up a brave front, but the dark always unnerved her. She’d see things no one else did. Or at least she thought so until recently.

    “The Ferris wheel,” said Sam. “I love the view.” She looked at her friend through the grey murk. They walked side by side. “What about you?”

    Erin didn’t answer right away, then pointed ahead. “The merry-go-round.”

    “Really?”

    “I imagined the animals all real and that I was riding them like a princess.” Erin laughed nervously at the memory.

    Sam looked at the wooden and plastic forms, frozen in place like animals forever imprisoned for their entertainment. She shuddered. Were they laughing or screaming?

    “They look sad to me in the dark,” she said.

    Erin’s eyes widened as she took in the smiling faces of the horses. “They kinda freak me out now.”

    “The mouths, right?”

    “Yeah. Like they want to eat me.”

    Without any debate, Sam grabbed Erin’s hand and the girls quickened their step, rounding near the other side of the ride.

    Bright light filled the area as the organ-grinder music wound up, awakening from its slumber. Sam turned, whipping Erin’s arm with her and dragging them both to the ground. The mechanical screech of unlubricated metal gave way to motion as the merry-go-round picked up its chase. The horses still looked hungry instead of laughing.

    Sam scrambled to her feet as both the ride and the music stopped with a bang. The lights stayed on, flickering their dancing pattern to a melody that wasn’t. A full second later, Erin stopped screaming.

    Dorian emerged from the centre and vaulted a unicorn effortlessly. He strode to the girls, laughing wildly.

    “Gotcha, Sis,” he said then looked down. “You must be Erin.” He offered his hand.

    She took it and pulled herself to her feet. “How’d you get that thing working?”

    “Magic,” he said and smirked, earning a sharp glare from his sister.

    “You jerk,” said Sam and punched his shoulder.

    1. Observer Tim

      Beautiful, Doug. I love the mix of slice of life and modern fantasy. It sounds like just the sort of thing an older brother would do. 🙂

      I really love the description of the creatures on the merry-go-round. Those things totally freak me out; in my imagination they were looking at me with those wild eyes. Thank heavens I’m older now and don’t back away in terror anymore…

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I liked the story Doug, loaded with realism and descriptive magic. I bought a horse from a country fair that used to travel from small town to small town. It has only traces of paint and you see how it was carved. Most people who come to our house for the first time never mention it because it’s mouth is scary.Is that strange or not?

    2. snuzcook

      I love that Sam seems to be the most afraid, even tho she appears to be trying to scare her friend a bit. Wonderful insights to how Sam thinks and feels. Nice decompress with the big brother prank at the end. Ditto that more of the same in a book would be fun to read!

  22. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

    Missing Madonna

    The police stopped looking for Donnie weeks ago, but I kept coming to the ruins of the defunct amusement park. Even my parents gave up, but I couldn’t. There was something wrong with the place.

    This time I took my classmate Chase with me. Accompanied by the sharpest mind of the eleventh grade, I hoped to find out anything that would give me a clue to where my sister was. By the time we entered the rusty gate, the sun was almost down, and so was Chase’s enthusiasm.

    “She could have been kidnapped, you know.”

    He kicked a bunch of dry leaves off the ground, and I gave him my best look of disappointment. “She is too smart for that. I really thought you’d be more help.”

    “Lanz, she’s seven.”

    I knew exactly how unreasonable and stubborn I sounded. I’d searched the place a thousand times, looked under every decrepit slide, checked every inch of the thicket, examined every wooden animal of the lopsided carousel,—the God-forgotten place without a trace of life still gave me creeps and another odd feeling I couldn’t put a finger on.

    “Conclusion.” Chase’s voice resounded across the overgrown ruins. “No men, no clues. Can we go before it gets too dark and we go missing ourselves?”

    I hesitated; my eyes kept searching the place that I knew by heart. I felt a hand on my shoulder.
    “Buddy, I know she’s your little sis, but you’re becoming paranoid. You wanted an independent opinion, here it is. She’s not here.”

    He had a point. I looked around one last time and turned to go. Something screeched behind us. My first impulse was to get the hell out of there, but lights flashed on everywhere, and curiosity took over. We gaped at the rocking swings and the glowing eyes of a giant clown head, rusty cars moving in circles.

    “No clues, huh?” I said. Chase just swallowed in response.

    The saddest sight was the carousel. Every round ended in a moan of metal against metal, as if pleading us to make the spinning stop. Among the dancing horses one was especially miserable: front legs and an ear missing, black streaks of burnt paint, bent pole. Donnie would have begged me to take it home to fix. Before I knew I launched forward and leaped onto the poor thing. Chase screamed and everything went quiet and still. In an instant, it was daytime.

    I stepped off the carousel. “Chase?” My voice echoed across the park that looked even more derelict than before.

    “No one ever gets on that horse.” I turned around to the voice that wasn’t Chase’s to see a woman in mid-thirties. The next moment she was hugging me and crying into my shoulder.

    I tapped her on the back. “Um, who are you?”

    She pulled away, her eyes wide and elated. “Twenty-five years I’ve been here. Trapped. Alone.” Her face darkened. “Why did you get on that horse? There’s no way back.”

    Then I knew. My hand trembled as I touched her cheek and pulled her back into my embrace. “Donnie, I’m here now. We’re gonna find the way back.”

    1. snuzcook

      Wonderful concept, well drawn and well presented. The implications of the sisters, trapped in the same place at different ages has lots of potential. Can the older sister really solve the riddle that Donnie has struggled with for so long? Is Donnie a woman of 32, or is she a 7-year old in a 32 year old body? Who else lives there and how do they feed themselves, etc.?

    2. Observer Tim

      Time slip! I love the final play with paradox, but more importantly you did a great and wonderful job getting there. The descriptions are fantastic. I especially like the line “the sun was almost down, and so was Chase’s enthusiasm”. You have a hit here, Bez! 🙂 🙂

      If Chase is the picky perfectionist type, he likely would have called Lanz obsessed rather than paranoid.

      My mind is asking me if they’re between moments, in some kind of extradimensional space, or in some completely wrong time where there are no other people. Brain is leading for the first one as otherwise some kind of explanation would be needed as to how Donnie lived for 25 years. Unless there are other things like her clothes around (which is likely if it’s a complete amusement park). I can just picture Donnie all dolled up in clothes from the carnies…

      Hmm, lots of stuff to think about. Bravo! O_o

        1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

          Wow, you really gave it a thought, didn’t you? ) The idea behind all that was that the carousel start moving during full moon and when the sky is clear (word count didn’t let me get to it), and at that time a person getting on a horse of the carousel lands in a sort of an alternate reality, which depends on the horse one takes. The thing with Donnie was that she chose the horse nobody else did (she’d figured out how the carousel worked by the time Lanz arrived), because the horse was ugly and crippled. That’s why she’s alone and her world is desolate and crumbling, her brother is the only one who made the same choice she did.

          There’s a lot of room to think of where the other horses lead, if the siblings are really alone in the mystical world, if Chase decides to follow Lanz, if Donnie can ever go back to being a kid.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            There are so many thoughts as you read. It allows your story to capture the reader instantly, even if we know about the prompt ahead of time. To me the key sentence is ‘No one ever gets on that horse.’

  23. Pete

    This one got away from me some and I didn’t follow the prompt line for line. Over some too…

    Maddy Rose leaped off the steps as Mom and I got back from the mall.

    “I’ve been waiting forever! Come on.”

    I looked back to find Mom smirking as Maddy dragged me off. It was bad enough trying to keep up with her when she walked, but when she got worked up about something it was nearly impossible to match her gangly strides. She flung her hair back.

    “Wait until you see it.”

    “See what?”

    I hurried ahead, past the trailers, hopping over some trash and cutting between cars. Her trailer sat at the end of the lot, entangled in a heap of abandoned junkers with busted out windshields. Mr. Rose was kind of off. Could be why her mom ran off when she was little. Mom said maybe she’d gone and caught up with my long-lost dad. When I told Maddy that joke I got slugged in the arm.

    More dusty cars lined the drive. Max barked like a loon. Mr. Rose drove a tow truck and could fix just about anything, but Maddy had to help him with stuff around the house. Figure the bills and whatnot. Mom had just been saying how Mr. Rose wasn’t going to be able to handle her once she wiped the grease from her face and grew into those legs. But no one could handle Maddy Rose, she was the scrappiest kid at Maple Court

    She skidded to a stop and I nearly ran into her. Then she spun around, the trails of her sandy blonde hair veiling her face. “We hauled it over today, welcome to MaddyLand!”

    It was dusk, but I could feel Maddy’s stare on me as I took it in, “Is that a…”

    “Daddy, Nat’s here. Turn it on!”

    Mr. Rose climbed down from the structure. He fiddled with a box and it was like lightning struck. The whole place blasted to life. Even the crickets got quiet. The lights flashed and a real life Ferris Wheel stuttered. Maddy squealed, grabbing my wrist and yanking me along as she tore over and hopped in a cart. I was leery, eyeing spread of tools and discarded cans of WD 40. Budweisers. Maddy must’ve saw what I was thinking because she did that squinting thing at me.

    “Nat, if you don’t get in this cart, I’m telling everyone in Maple Court how you peed your pants at ParaNorman.”

    “That was three years ago”

    She narrowed her eyes on me. Dead-to-rights, I climbed into the death trap.

    “I told you I spilled my drink.”

    Maddy scooted over and I scooted in, our legs rubbing together in the sticky evening. She turned to me and her eyes wide as those bulbs along the railing.

    “Look are you sure we—”

    “Okay Daddy!”

    We wrenched forward, a scrape of metal as the giant wheel clickaty-clacked into action. I held on to that rusty cart, and Maddy squeezed my arm so tight I thought it would break. We climbed into the night…tick…tick…tick…the wheel carried us out over the tin boxes in Maple Court. Tires on the roofs, long lost footballs, I felt a bony elbow in my ribs.

    “Look.”

    Maddy pointed out the water tower against the horizon. I found the baseball stadium. We followed the sweep of traffic across the interstate then turned our attention to the mountains etched against the last squeeze of orange in the distance.

    At the tip top she took a breath. Bit her lip then said, “My mom and your daddy are out there…somewhere.”

    I didn’t have much to say on that. Not after she took my hand. When I peeked over and saw the flood of tears on her face it felt like the whole world had changed. The wheel jerked, then stopped again. Mr. Rose had some creepy carnival music going on down there. Maddy wiped the tears and dirt from her face and I gotta say, looking at her right then, I realized what Mom meant.

    There was nowhere to go but down. She let go of my hand. People had gathered around the wheel. Mr. Rose had them lining up. Another jab into my ribs brought me back to earth.

    “You tell anyone about up there you’re going to pay.”

    1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Pete, this is the sweetest story. The words you chose hold so much integrity and meaning, it’s incredible. I’m impressed by the precise picture of the tomboy, and I don’t know why, but I imagine they are southerners. This truly feels like a scene ripped out of a published book.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      I agree with all the other comments. So many great lines, but one stayed with me:…nowhere to go but down. I do hope the kids make it up and out.

  24. Witt.Stanton

    Dean pushed me forward, through the rusty gates. “Com’n, Grace. Hurry.” The sounds of the dogs had faded away, and the creaking of old carnival rides filled the air.

    “This is a bad idea. . .” I muttered as a cold wind blew the hair across my face, tugging at my jacket. I shivered. “What if someone’s here? What if they call us in? What if –”

    A smile tugged at the corners of his lips, and he reached for her hand. “Don’t worry. No one lives here. It’s too far from town. And besides, where would you get any food out here?”

    I gave a quiet sigh, and he pulled me close. I rest my head on his warm chest, listening to his steady heart beat. “Let’s find somewhere to rest for a while. It looks like it’s about to rain.” Dark clouds lay overhead, hiding the stars as thunder rolled in the distance.

    The strong wind that had blown in made the old carnival rides sway as if they were alive, making shadows. danced in the ground. Dean kept an arm wrapped around me as we walked deeper into the maze. His flashlight wandered around to the faded banners above them. “Creepy, huh?”

    Then we heard it.

    The unmistakable buzz of electricity filled the air. We weren’t alone. This was a trap. Lights flickered on around us, illuminating the carnival grounds. The carousel music started, hauntingly playing amongst the creaking and groaning of the old metal rods that held it together as the horses began to move.

    I ran blindly forward into the foggy night, my feet pounding on the wooden boardwalk. The lights continued to turn on, one after another. Pounding footsteps were bouncing off the buildings behind me. Dean. Adrenaline made my hands shake, my legs turn to jelly. This was a nightmare and I was trapped in it.

    Skidding to a stop, I leaned over the railing and threw up. Sipping my mouth with a tattered coat sleeve, I tried to catch my breath. The footsteps had stopped. In the foggy distance, someone was screaming. Please don’t let it be Dean, I whispered to myself. Please. Please.

    She frantically glanced around, trying to see the source of the noise, but the fog was closing in around her. The sound of waves beating apron the shore was near, but she couldn’t tell which direction the water was. A sickening sense of dread overcame me. I was lost.

    Softly, I heard the footsteps again. They steadily grew closer. Dean.

    He emerged out of the wall fog and jogged towards me. I opened my mouth to ask him what had happened, but as soon as he came close, I noticed something that made me want to throw up again. I slapped a hand to my mouth, trying to hold back the scream. Tears slid down my cheeks as I saw what had become of my only friend.

    A large scratch ran down Dean’s face, soaking the top of his shirt with wet, red blood. His once beautiful eyes were now completely white. Blind. His jacket flapped open in the wind, partially exposing the gory, torn flesh underneath. Dean was dead. Another victim to the ZA54.

    As he staggered towards her, he moaned. It was a deep, dark sound that she had heard too many times. This wasn’t Dean anymore.

    The ZA54 had taken her siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends. Now it had taken the only one she had left; her boyfriend. With him gone, she had nothing left to live for. She couldn’t save the world, but she could save herself. From her coat pocket, Grace pulled out her hand gun and aimed it at Dean’s head. She had to end this.

    Closing her eyes, she fired blindly at him. The shots echoed down the boardwalk. She heard Dean hit the boardwalk with a muted thump. A bullet to the brain killed zombies. Firmly keeping her eyes closed, she turned the gun and placed the warm muzzle to her forehead. A bullet to the brain killed humans.

    One final shot echoed down the boardwalk.

    An old man found her body laying next to that of a newly infected. Death reeked in the air. With a sigh, he crouched next to the bodies and lifted the girl up. So young, he thought to himself. The Resistance needed more young, intuitive minds. He wished she hadn’t died.

    Alby carried her to the nearby shore of a place once called Coney Island. He smiled at the memory as he gently lay her in the cool sand. A friend of his joined him and silently helped bury her. He knelt there, in the sand, listening to the waves. They reminded him of his trip here with his parents when he was a child.

    If only she had known what life was like before the Zombie Apocalypse of 1954. Then maybe she wouldn’t have killed herself. Ah, but what did he know? Alby stood up and dusted off his pants. “Let’s go get the other one, the boy. Let’s burry him next to her.”

    His old friend smiled at him and laughed quietly, “Oh, Einstein. You’re a romantic, through and trough.”

    “Is that really such a bad thing, Walt? Is it bad to wish for the impossible? For love and happiness in a world made of sorrow?”

    He briefly thought about it before replying, “Nah. It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

    Albert Einstein laughed and slapped him on the shoulder as they walked down the beach. “This is why we’re friends. We’re different, in a way nobody has seen before or will ever see again.”

    With a smile, Walt Disney raised an imaginary glass in a toast. “To being different.” His friend echoed him, gazing out across the Atlantic ocean. Over miles and miles of dark waves, the sun was beginning to rise.

    1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Interesting choice of characters, Witt)) I enjoyed the story to the last word, though I’m not a huge fan of zombie tales (but yes, I watched 5 seasons of Walking Dead, guilty, guilty). I like the philosophy of the final dialogue, especially Walt Disney saying that it’s fun to do the impossible.

      As for nitpicks, I’d prefer to hear Zombie Apocalypse of 1954 before you introduce the abbreviation, and I also felt that you had a few adverbs too many in the first part of the story.

    2. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Witt. I love the sense of action and immediacy you created, along with the build of hopelessness you put in leading to Grace’s end. Also, I love the second section with Walt and Albert; it does a nice job of explaining things without being block narration. 🙂

      A part of me gripes about first-person narratives that end with the narrator’s death (even though I do it sometimes too). A person with a more normal brain than mine might se a disconnect there; this is not a criticism, just something to be aware of.

  25. ReathaThomasOakley

    No story yet, on the road in Montana, but please allow me to share a bit of good (for me) news. I received an Honorable Mention in Writers Digest Annual Competition, non-rhyming poetry category.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Kerry, I would frame if I could, but I got an email. When I got an honorable mention for a short story I understood there were 6,000 entries, so yes, I’m rather proud.

  26. Kerry Charlton

    DREAMLAND PARK

    So many years have passed, it’s time I told this story. I was a senior at Colgate in New York. in the dead of winter of ’58, my best friend and fraternity brother, Bill Wingate and I decided to explore the forests around Hamilton. Winds rose and bitter sleet fell. We had decided to turn back when we approached a clearing with a brook running through it.

    On the other side, an abandoned amusement park appeared as out of no where,

    “Where did that come from Charles?”

    “ Can you make the marquee out, it’s faded?”

    “Seems like ’Dreamland Park‘.”

    A small bridge appeared spanning the brook and before our eyes, the amusement lit up, hundreds of people dressed ’turn of the century fashion’ wandered through the midway.

    “I getting the hell out of here,” Bill said..

    “Wait, see that redhead beckoning our way? Quite a beauty.”

    “I don’t care if it’s Rita Hayworth dancing the seven veils, I’m gone. Are you coming or not?”

    “Hell no, I’m crossing the bridge.”

    “You’re crazy but I’ll go with you anyway.”

    Two friends walked gingerly across wooden planks, partially rotted from age that warned danger but they made the park entrance. The red head doll headed straight for me,

    “I‘m MaryAnn Jeanette, you‘re real cute. Are you from here?”

    “I’m Charles Struthers a senior at Colgate. Are you a student?”

    “Yes, I’m a sophomore, I graduate in 1915.”

    I threw Bill a startled look.

    “I caught that, I’m not staying, I’ll be across the bridge.”

    As I watched Bill grow ever smaller, MaryAnn slipped her arm through mine,

    “There’s so much to see, will you walk with me?”

    I looked straight into her emerald eyes, at her perfect mouth and hypnotically said,

    “Yes, but I can’t stay.”

    At the front of the midway, stood ‘A Ride To the Moon’, further down, a Japanese Tea Garden, the ‘Hell-Gate Boat Ride‘, a single Ferris wheel and a miniature city of Pompeii, complete with a raging volcano.

    “I know you’ll be interested in this,” she said as she led me through a large tent.
    Strange music played and before me, danced ‘Little Egypt‘ with very little to hide in.

    “She‘s dancing the ‘Couchee-Couchee’,” MaryAnn said.

    “I will admit she’s good at it,” I replied.

    We left there, my eyes seemed to be confusing me as we sat at a Victorian gazebo by the brook.

    “You can kiss me if you like.”

    One sweet kiss and my eyes grew dim to the park.

    “You must leave immediately,” MaryAnn said. “I will always remember you.”

    I could hear Bill frantically calling me but I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t focus on anything but I felt the bridge planks at my feet and my body being drawn back to the park by a physical force unknown to me, when Bill grabbed me and pushed me across the bridge. However he stayed behind, perhaps by choice or any other reason, I never knew.

    Colgate sent search parties through the forests but never found him. Weeks later I
    had the courage to review the graduates of 1915. MaryAnn Jeanette Brooks stood out from the rest. During a fierce battle in France in 1918, as a battle-savvy nurse, she rescued a young lieutenant, Charles Browning Struthers. She was killed by a mortar explosion and was awarded The French Legion of Honor, posthumously .

    ‘Small world,’ I thought. Charles Browning Struthers was my grandfather.
    .

      1. rle

        Editing or not, this is true Kerry style through and through. I still don’t know what(if anything) to do with this prompt myself. You’ve done better here than anything I could conjure up. My hat is off to you my friend.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you for the read and we both liked the same sentence. Editing is not my strong suit, not because I don’t want to work on it but I’m not good at it. Any critique will be much appreciated. I’m guilty of automatic writing on this particular prompt and it came faster than I can type, but that’s not saying much. I read it back twice and kind of liked the rhythm of the story and didn’t want to lessen it by fooling with it. I’ve been on this web site two and a half years and it just gets better each week. There are so many beautiful writers here.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Doug. There is a trick I use to get the backdrop on these stories. On this one, I research Coney Island, turn of the midway, rides and stuff. Don’t think for one moment I know all that stuff. Kerry

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a really wonderful story of ephemeral love, Kerry. Even in a short piece like this you’ve managed to capture that sense of timeless passion. I love the quietl little connection snuck in at the end. The circle is complete. Great job! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tim. I’ve been thinking of expanding this to about 2400 words. That’s the size I’m used to. It would give so much more of the story I came up with.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Reatha, that is my all-time favorite movie. The characters, story line and of course, Jennifer Jones. Now if I could get in your voice somehow, I’d write a story to match. When you get in that groove, I get lost in the screen.

    2. snuzcook

      Wonderfully romantic and ethereal, Kerry! Didn’t suspect that Bill would succumb to the park, but it gives a wonderfully mysterious punch. And the full-circle with the mysterious, brave, gorgeous red head was a satisfying touch. You’re at top form, Kerry!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks snuz! In the expanded version I have running through my head, Bill gets caught in the time warp and carries a subplot and in the end, Charles reunites with him when Bill shows up as a 70 year old man with MaryAnn’s granddaughter because he did marry MaryAnn when she realized Charles was 43 years in her future. How’s that for a twist?

  27. SheepCarrot

    I was running a little late with last week’s prompt, and manged to get it posted about 12hrs before this one came up. It turned out to be a continuation from the I Spy prompt, so those who were asking for it, there you go! In the meanwhile, I’m hammering out my response to this one that I wrote last night while sleep deprived and working overtime. 🙂

  28. Observer Tim

    CARNIVAL SHIP

    The Golden Carnival lies in black outline against the actinide pinpricks of the stars. Its silhouette and the spiderwork of the airshield look worse for wear even though they’ve been left unattended for five years. Ever since the raiders killed her crew and left the husk of the ship on this asteroid.

    “Are you sure you want to do this, Sooki?”

    “Yes Captain. This is where it all began.”

    I turn on the gravity belt that would keep my feet pointing downward and allow me to walk. Then I step out the airlock and into history.

    The utility station at the carnival entrance is in good condition; I hope this works. Two standard power cells should light the place up for about an hour. I say a silent prayer.

    There are a few sparks from the airshield, but I figured it wouldn’t work anyway. Otherwise the place awakens in a fountain of bright lights, looking just like it did when I first saw it eighteen years ago.

    I start at the Roller Coaster. There’s no way the thing still works, but it’s lit up as though it does. Rissa used to fling out bits of food and try to hit patrons as we rushed over them; I used to struggle to keep my stomach contents inside where they belonged.

    Oddly enough I preferred the Spin Ride. If I closed my eyes it just felt like gravity; Rissa said it was boring. It still works so I take the two-minute ride, imagining Rissa lying across my chest and pressing on me with all three G’s the ride generated. That’s when the tears start.

    I almost spot her in the Hall of Holograms, our images being stretched and squeezed and rendered in three-dimensional detail. But she’s not here.

    We grew up working the carnival learning about life and work and fun, about machines and how to make them work when they broke, about how to operate a starship, about boys and how they could… well, learning about boys.

    And through it all Rissa and I were a team. She was from the same world as me, sold to the carnival owners at the same time. We matured together and through some miracle were both sold to Stefani together. Life was a grand adventure, even for slaves.

    In the Fun House I sneak into the back, carefully checking even though I know nobody’s watching. The blankets and tarps are still piled in the usual place. I remember lying back to back with Rissa, the warmth of her flesh bringing me confidence as the boys on either side of us introduced two curious girls into the ways of womanhood. They left afterwards, so Rissa and I enjoyed the afterglow together.

    Just like she wanted, this is the place. Where she first got laid is where she’ll lay forever; that sort of dark humour is so like her. I carefully place the urn holding her ashes.

    “Good-night Clarissa. Rest in peace, my friend.”

    1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      A mix of emotions, Tim) I love when people take prompts to extremes and make them into masterpieces, your piece here is definitely one of those. Space, slavery, teenage sex, friendship bordering on bisexuality… oh my, this could be a new blockbuster). The end (especially the dark humor line – nice clear-up, by the way) blew me away. My thumbs can’t get any higher)

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks greatly, Bez. I’m glad for the vote of confidence. The hard part for me is trying to come up with something nobody else would think of (especially without reading in advance); I knew there would be plenty of horror, so I figured I’d do sad. Plus, it fit nicely with last week’s Vodimorph prompt (same characters).

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I have to agree with Reatha, Tim. This is one of your very best stories, there is so much emotion. pain and sorrow here. It’s amazing in such a short story. Boy, you can pack the words when you want to.

    2. snuzcook

      (I see that the comment I posted days ago never took, so I’m revisiting…)
      I like this story on so many levels, Tim. I love the expansion of the backstory to Captain Danger’s crew, ’cause I love that whole paradigm. I love the idea of this poignant gesture by a friend for a friend, and you give us the opportunity to experience the happy past and emotional present along with Sooki.

  29. cloudmaker

    This was only a walk around the village, and we had no idea about that there could be places like this.
    “You think there are ghosts?” asked Dan.
    We sat on the bench in front of the park and smoked couple of cigarettes.
    “Yeah, sure. Maybe ghosts of the dead adrenaline searchers. This is so high,” I pointed to the wheel which reached the sky.
    “Maybe we should check it out,” whispered Dan with excitement in his voice. He looked like Grinch during Christmas. Obviously I wasn’t sure if this is a good idea.
    “Yeah, so that a psycho with a knife would kill us,” I grumbled and rolled my eyes. “This is stupid. Let’s go back,” said I and stood up.
    Suddenly the light appeared in the park and all of the carousels started moving slowly. It was as if the park was opened for the people to come and have fun but this was not the case. Dan jumped up and he started shaking from excitement.
    ‘We must go there,” he insisted and looked at me with sparkles in his eyes.
    I tried to argue but Dan didn’t even listen to me, grabbed my hand and we entered the park. I – shaking from the coldness of the evening and fear that we were going to be killed, he – excited and hot as hell. I was looking around and thinking to myself that this will be the last night in my life.
    “Hey, come here!” shouted Dan and I turned around to his voice but he wasn’t there.
    “Dan, where are you?” I shouted and walked backwards to the exit looking around but Dan just disappeared.
    “Emma!” I heard his voice again but without excitement.
    My heart started jumping in my chest and I started crying.
    “Dan! Where are you, please come out”, I shouted again and ran towards the exit.
    I didn’t see but carousels were even lighter and started to go around faster as I heard children laughter and various other voices mixed up together. But in fact there were no children and no people. When I reached the gate of the park, they were looked as I tried to open them.
    “Emma…” I heard and felt a hand on my shoulder.
    I turned quickly and saw Dan; he was all covered in blood. I started to scream and he fell in front of me. I was shaking and breathing heavily. I saw a tall figure coming out of one of the ticket booths. It was a clown with a bloody axe.
    “Stupid people. I hate you. Always searching for excitement, for something new and thrilling. Burn in hell,” said the clown and finished chopping their bodies.

    P.S. Sorry for mistakes 🙂

    1. Observer Tim

      This is pretty grim, Cloudmaker. It reads like the opening teaser of a splatter movie. After the title, another group of adventurous teens shows up at the park on a sunny afternoon. Great job creating the sense of confusion and its associated terror. 🙂 🙂

      There are places where an editing pass could help with the language, but nothing that really breaks the mood for me. Nice job!

    2. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Burn in hail! All y’all!!

      Seriously, though, could use some work and a bit more character development, but not a bad start cloud!! 🙂

      Also, your profile picture makes me hungry for Cap’N Crunchberries… and I hate you for it. haha 😉 Thanks for the read!

    3. cloudmaker

      Thank you guys for your comments! I really appreciate that you read 🙂 It was just a brainstorm on the situation and I thought that I woun’t expand very much on characters development etc. But thanks again! You really made my day 🙂

  30. jacquelineroney

    February 21st 12:00 AM
    “Well Megan midnight just hit, time to go inside.”
    We approached the gates to the old Lanery Amusement Park; it had burned down back in 1948 and I was there.
    It was my eighth birthday and Mama had decided to take me. At that time we weren’t rich and Mama saved up everything from her job as a switch board operator down at city hall to take me. That day it was overcast with slight thunder, Mama said not to worry a little thunder wasn’t going to ruin our day.
    When we had walked into the park it was magical. Lights were shining in greens, oranges and blues. You could hear the music playing and people all around laughing and cheering. There were bumper cars, roller coaster rides and a giant Ferris wheel that overlooked the whole city.
    Mama looked at me and said “Jenny what would you like to do first?”
    I furrowed my brows in deep concentration and making a mental checklist of all the things I wanted to do, arranging them by importance.
    “I know! Can we go get some of that pink cotton candy over by the Ferris wheel?”
    “Of course we can and then after that would you like to go on the Ferris wheel?”
    “Yes Mama”
    I scurried over to the cotton candy booth walking so quickly that I was tugging Mama with me. She had given the man the money when suddenly a large crack from the sky came down, along with a bright eye searing strip of lightning that fired straight onto the Ferris wheel.
    I could see in the corner of my eye the teetering of the Ferris wheel and its quick descent onto the ground and then the push from my mother knocking me straight into the fortune teller’s tent. I smacked my head against one of the posts holding the tent into place and everything subsided into darkness.
    I woke up to a horrible headache, my ears rang and the air was thick with smoke. I crawled out from under what remained of the fortune teller’s tent to see pure pandemonium. Everything was ablaze and ash was starting to coat the park grounds. I started to search frantically for Mama. I kept screaming out hoping to see her in her purple sun dress and long blonde curly hair looking around for me too.
    I finally got to what once was the cotton candy both and there she was. Lying underneath a beam from the Ferris wheel, her once beautiful Blonde hair was a saturated crimson from the cut that ran from the gash that was on the back of her head. I knew she was gone; I cried and curled up next to her and didn’t move until much later when a fireman had picked me up and carried me away.

    It had been ten years exactly since that day and just like Mama I grabbed Megan and pulled her along as I went through the gates. The shining lights of green, orange and blue began to turn on and what rides that were left began to move and right where the old Ferris wheel use to be was Mama with her purple dress and long blonde curly hair, smiling and waiting there for us.

    1. Observer Tim

      This screams for a sequel: why is she taking her daughter there, unless it’s to mark the anniversary. Most importantly, what happens next? You’ve captured my interest, Jacqueline. 🙂 🙂

      I assume Megan is Jenny’s friend; it might not hurt to explicitly state that, since my first impression was that it was her daughter. Given that Jenny is 18, that’s a bit of a stretch even for the 1950’s.

    2. jacquelineroney

      Thanks everyone (:
      Tim…Megan is Jenny’s friend I totally forgot to make that know…my bad lol

      Lucretia that is totally up to the reader to decide (:

  31. Reaper

    Twenty-three, twenty-three, paging twenty-three. This one was actually a little difficult for me. I think my brain might be full. In case anyone comes around asking I’ll post it in advance this time. Other bits can be found here. http://patrickelliottwrites.blogspot.com/

    In the Beginning – Walking with Jesus

    Father O’Reilly plodded along a deserted, dirt road outside town. Prayer held no solace recently. In the middle of a modern holy war talking to God was a solitary pursuit. God didn’t answer. Except in the symbolic and internal ways he always had. O’Reilly realized how used to company he had grown. Even if said companionship was intermittent.

    Father O’Reilly missed Jack. He longed for that other voice telling him they fought the good fight. He knew he still was, but confirmation helped. He wasn’t sure if Jack was still fighting at all. Everything would be easier if the priest knew the detective was alive. It would even be easier if he knew for sure that Jack was dead.

    It was a quirk of his profession that Father O’Reilly never called the police station. He trusted in providence to provide the answer. His eyes and heart would tell him the truth. Nothing else could be trusted. They might have influence over everything else.

    His heart knew Jack was alive. His heart knew he was lonely. So he walked alone in the middle of nowhere. He remembered a lesson from seminary though. Not an official catechism, something an old Bishop said. When you walk with Jesus you are never alone. So Father O’Reilly walked in the woods with Jesus, asking for a miracle.

    It came in the form of an abandoned amusement park. Father O’Reilly looked at this offering in the middle of his own, personal desert. Moss grew on steel, saplings threaded up through floorboards on most of the rides. What was it doing here?

    O’Reilly felt a phantom hand pushing him forward, there was something there for him. As he approached the lights came on, sputtering in an attempt to die permanently. Jaunty carnival music spun up, piped in through rusty tubes that distorted the tinny sounds of childhood joy. Phantasmal but no less real the scents of cold buttered popcorn, mildew ridden hotdogs, and mold infused cotton candy wafted to his nose.

    O’Reilly walked on. Why was the carousel the only ride without plants growth? He made his way to that as his own personal Jesus whispered in the center of his head. ‘Because it was always your favorite.’ True, but he must be very lonely indeed if he was so far gone he was literally hearing the voice of God. Only Archbishops and above had that privilege.

    Stepping onto the carousel he walked to the pure black Arabian, also his favorite. On the saddle sat a small square of paper. A note, one the priest knew came from Jack. He lifted it and read. His heart fell, less sure about his world and his fight than ever. Was he being turned on? The simple script read…

    Father,

    Sometimes faith and the fight require sacrifices. I don’t want you to be mine. Keep your head down and stay hidden. Wait until you hear from me again to take up the battle again.

    Your Friend

    1. Observer Tim

      From adversity comes strength. This may have been hard for you, but the end result was beautiful. Words of praise fail me. 🙂

      My only quibble is the phrase “turned on” near the end; it might prevent a titter or two to change it to “betrayed” or “turned against”. Just a thought.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Reaper, I think this is one of the stronger, and certainly one of the most philosophical, pieces. I really enjoyed Father O’ Reilly’s internal dialogue, especially phrases like, his own personal Jesus. Keep going!

    3. snuzcook

      A wonderful look at this character, Reaper. So much of his thinking is very familiar and spot on about faith and trusting that guidance will be given. “It was a quirk of his profession that Father O’Reilly never called the police station. He trusted in providence to provide the answer. His eyes and heart would tell him the truth. Nothing else could be trusted. They might have influence over everything else.”

      Excellent!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Reaper, this is the second time I’ve tried to post on here. I hope this one works. As a result I have read this three times and find power, beauty and sacrifice in your writing. Once they are all together it will make one bang on the piublishing world. Keep putting the chapters out, you’re probably at 6000 words but that’s nothing for a story such as this.

  32. Chad J. O'Brien

    Mount Scummore

    “You go first,” I say, right behind him. I grip the back of his shirt incase someone jumps out of the bushes with a machete. My own human shield. Isn’t that what friends are for?

    “Nosies.” Ian whispers, touching the tip of his nose. “I win.”

    “Screw you Clark, that’s cheap shit.” I thump the back of his neck in disgust.

    “Rules are rules,” he says. I reluctantly lead the way.

    It’s almost midnight and pitch dark-dark out. We’re getting closer to the rusty gate that marks Mount Scummore. It used to have a prettier name, but that was decades ago when it was actually open.

    “We can go back,” I say, breaking the silence of night.
    “No,” Ian laughs. “But thanks for the offer.”

    We’re at the gate now. I’m shaking. There’s nothing here, and I’m afraid of nothing. I’m afraid of vacant old amusement parks in the void black of night. “Weird.” I tell myself. I’m about to touch the gate. Something peculiar happens. Something terrifying:

    “Take him!” I say. It was Ian’s idea!” How else am I supposed to react when the entire park decides to come to life by itself? I’m talking carousels going ‘round, lights flickering, Captain Pete’s Panic Plunge shooting across its tracks…the list goes on. “It was Ian’s idea, I swear!”

    “Shut up Clark,” he whispers angrily. “We should go.”

    “Not so fast!” An alien voice booms out of nowhere. We freeze. “If you look each other in the eyes, you might notice a red dot on the forehead of each contestant. This serves as security in the event that you attempt to leave without say Good-bye. You will notice similar red dots on the abdomen and below the waist.”

    I look at Ian and he stares back. I can see my horror in his eyes. I can see the red-laser buttons lining his body. We don’t say anything. We don’t move. We are too young to get sniped.

    “When I finish talking, you will open the gate and take a right into the first building you see. Instructions are at the front desk. Go.”

    Petrified of potentially being shot at, we refuse to hesitate. We walk into the building, an information booth. There is a desk to the left, and a door to the right of the desk. A single piece of paper is on the desk. A pencil-drawn circle on the paper reads press here. I press the imaginary button, and a grainy recording plays:

    “There is a door to your right. Open it.”

    Ian cautiously opens the door. I stay two steps behind him. He gasps.

    “Dude,” he says. “Look.” His face is pale.

    I hold onto the side of the door as I peer in. It’s an ordinary closet. Three feet by three feet. A white wall in the back, even though the darkness makes it look gray. A floor—wait. No. No floor. Looking down, I see a deep pit of nothing. Absolute darkness. Absolutely endless.

    “Clark,” Ian whispers. “Let’s make a run for it.”

    “Stop. Bad idea. They’ll kill—”

    The recorder speaks again, its still-grainy monotone voice. “This is a game of trust. One contestant must walk into the closet. The other contestant must walk out of the building for their next task. You have 60 seconds to decide. Your time starts now.

    We both panic. We’re in tears now, bawling like toddlers robbed of their Halloween treats.

    “I think we should both go.” Ian whispers, defeated. “If we jump, we might survive. They’ll shoot us either way.”

    “Makes sense,” I say. I loved you bro.

    The recorded voice speaks again. 60 seconds has passed. Your time is up. Decide now.

    “You go first,” I say.

    A man walks into the building, except he doesn’t look man. In fact, he doesn’t look human at all. His voice sounds like the recording.

    “No,” he points at me. “You go first,” He says, grinning from ear to ear.

    “Nosies,” I say. Rules are rules.”

    “Nosies, Ian says.”

    1. Chad J. O'Brien

      Sorry about the typos, I notice them after I posted it! I’m not sure how this came out or how it reads to someone else so I’d love some insight!! Thanks!!!!

    2. Observer Tim

      This hit me like somewhere between Saw and laser tag. I’m not sure whether the boys have stumbled onto something extremely awful or someplace extremely fun. Possibly both. How it actually resolves will depend on what happens next. 🙂 🙂

      When you said “His voice sounds like the recording” I had an odd disconnect. Part of me thought he’s got the same voice; the other part said he was talking with hisses, pops, and scratches in the background. Again, either way would work depending on the tone of the rest of the story.

      Wonderful! O_o

      1. Chad J. O'Brien

        Wow, I wrote this drowsily after a long day of field work and almost regretted posting it. Not the response I was expecting. Comments tell me likewise! Thanks Tim! I think I’m going to do another part to it!

      1. Chad J. O'Brien

        Wow, awesome. So happy you liked it. I’ll definitely have another part! Not sure if it will be here or on another prompt. My website is in construction, so I’ll have the link eventually. Thanks for the heartwarming comments!

    3. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      You’re right that there are some grammatical and typographical errors, but the story is good enough. Personally, I would have liked to see much more showing than telling because this is, so far, a good start for a great story. Just remember, when you do analogies, metaphors, or similes, make sure you use the type that fit the story. If you mean this to be whimsical, then likening their tears to children with stolen candy is good, but if you it to be more grounded and dramatic, then you’d want to use something darker.

      Good job, and keep up the good work, Chad.

      1. Chad J. O'Brien

        Thanks a lot Jay! I appreciate the constructive criticism–I’ll definitely take note of it. One of the main reasons why I write here is for advice like yours. Cheers!

  33. snuzcook

    FAIRY LAND (part 1)

    The beach at Shelby’s Reach was known for its murky history. Stuck on the side of the dog leg of the Anderson Spit, back in the early 1900s it had been a popular destination for families taking a day trip on the Black Ball ferries from Ballard or Seattle. Nathaniel Corrigan, a rich developer trying to sell building lots on the Spit, had built a wagon track out to the beach, and dredged a thousand years of sand and silt and alluvial deposits to make a proper dock offloading passengers, and cargo of fresh milled lumber.

    The Seattle Post Intelligencer lauded his efforts, announcing with great fan fare the construction of a natatorium and amusement park nicknamed Fairy Land “…”to rival Luna Park in West Seattle and anything east of the Rockies.” Natatoria, salt water indoor pools, touted to have great therapeutic properties, were all the rage before the Great War.

    No one could have foreseen that the park at Shelby’s Reach would barely open in the summer of 1908 before it was closed down. A hundred-year storm destroyed the boat dock, and waves undercut the roadway from the mainland at the neck of the spit. The storm was so strong that it actually changed the channel at the mouth of the Hansen River upbeach, and all the silt and sand washed down out of the surrounding hills was now directed to the area around the Reach, making the constant re-dredging of the landing a maddening problem.

    These were minor obstacles to a man like Corrigan. He immediately set to work with engineers to find fix and then prevent his hard-won Spit from being cut off from the mainland. He held fast to his vision of a community there in the most picturesque spot of the entire Puget Sound. But some obstacles cannot be overcome by money and determination. Nathaniel Corrigan suffered a stroke as he toured the damage to Fairy Land.

    Corrigan lingered for months in a coma, cared for at home in his mansion near Seattle overlooking the Sound. As he lay mute and unresponsive with no hope of recovery, his family dismantled his financial holdings. Anything of value was sold. His wife, thirty years his junior and only three years since exchanging vows, aided his grown sons in dividing and essentially eviscerating his fortune before his death, with the certainty that he had slighted them in his will. The only property that was yet intact when he died was the useless property at Shelby’s Reach.

    Legend says that the old man woke briefly from his coma with full knowledge of his family’s betrayal, and had cursed them all with his final breath.

    1. snuzcook

      FAIRY LAND (part 2)

      Heck Crosby had heard the stories about the abandoned Fairy Land. If it hadn’t been for Shuck Martin he would never have set foot on the place. But Shuck Martin was not a man to cross; he got his nickname from opening a man up once with an oyster knife. And Heck was counting on some scratch at the end of this caper. He’d been surviving on hooch of a questionable origin and any free sandwiches he could wrangle at the Eagle Saloon. They sat off shore in Heck’s dorie. The water was rough with a freshening wind from the North, but their cargo kept the vessel steady. Dark clouds hung low and threatening as they waited for a signal. Heck pulled his threadbare pea coat around him against the chill. “Why can’t we open one of them, just to stave off pneumonia?” He caressed one of the wooden cases crammed into the bottom of the dorie.

      “Veer off, y’old sot,” Shuck growled. “I need you awake. ‘Sides, these guys mean business. We don’t touch the stuff until it’s on shore and counted or we’ll both end up at the bottom of the Sound.”

      Heck believed him. This wasn’t Chicago, but there were rumors that some of the same gangsters that had turned Prohibition streets red back East were gaining a foothold here. There was a buck to be made selling booze to people who wanted it, but the trade was jealously guarded by those few who were brutal enough and ambitious enough to hold on to it.

      An isolated light appeared on the dark shore, then it blinked, two short and one long. “That’s them. Let’s go.”

      Heck pulled the dorie toward shore, and the wind helped her along. They beached near a low embankment. Dunes hid the road from the beach. A cluster of flashlights appeared, shining in and all around the boat.

      A husky man in a long gray coat and gray fedora stepped forward. “You made good time. Lucky for you. Let’s get ‘em out.”

      Heck and Shuck lifted the heavy wood crates out of the boat, some of the bottles clinking softly. Gray Fedora took a bottle from one of the first cases and examined the dark amber liquid inside. He cracked the seal , pulled the cork and took a quick taste, passed it to the men standing in a ring around him. Heck licked his own dry lips, his fists clenching with the desire to possess what the other man had.

      “Okay?” Shuck asked, pushing the words at Gray Fedora. The man looked around at the men passing the bottle. They nodded.

      “Okay,” Gray Fedora said. Help us carry it up to the board walk, and we’ll finish our business there.”
      The men in long coats and hats, along with Heck and Shuck, made a slow awkward procession hefting a dozen crates across the loose sand to the boardwalk.

      “In that place there,” Gray Fedora pointed. They were standing next to a weathered, lopsided sign that that bid them “Welcome to Fairy Land.” Beyond the sign and the remnants of a fence were half a dozen wood structures in varying states of disrepair. The largest building was just inside the gate, a small, barnlike structure that was probably a workshop of some kind.

      Heck was thinking again of the bottle that had been passed around and how unfair it was that he had not been offered so much as a swallow, especially considering they were being forced to go into a place everyone knew was haunted. Suddenly his thoughts evaporated as the dark night exploded into brightness and sound.

      The dark men in front of him were silhouetted against a blinding wall of blue and pink and yellow light. Through the brightness, Heck could make out the shape of a carrousel with painted horses turning slowly, then gaining speed. Beyond that, he could make out the shape and movement of a ferris wheel, turning like a gigantic locomotive’s wheel with baskets teetering all along its rim. Where only dilapidated buildings had been visible in the beams of flashlights, now an entire collection of amusement booths with striped awnings lined the boardwalk. And music! A calliope blared chasing away the night as effectively as the angel Gabriel’s own trumpet.

      A part of Heck’s memory, buried deep under years of disappointment and disillusionment, wriggled to the surface. It was a joyful, unashamed part of Heck that was awakened and fed on the wonder of the moment. Heck felt pain in his chest and realized that he was taking a full, optimistic breath for the first time in years. His ribs fairly popped with the effort, and he stood straighter and taller than he remembered he could.

      1. snuzcook

        No one’s beat me over the head with this one yet, so I thought I’d address what appears to be a small but glaring inconsistency in PP1 of Part 2–it’s not really. Heck is describing his present life during Prohibition, but he says he is getting handouts at the Eagle Saloon. How can there be a saloon? Here’s what was pretty common, at least in my neck of the woods. Saloon owners had to stay in business and keep customers, so they shifted their focus to serving food, washed down with (notably in the writings of the time) buttermilk. Many of these establishments changed their names from ‘saloon’ to ‘cafe’, so the Eagle Saloon might become the Eagle Cafe–same staff, many of the same fixtures and furnishings just different wares. Their longtime customers still thought of them as the same place.

    2. snuzcook

      FAIRY LAND (part 3)

      What was even stranger, to Heck’s puzzled eyes, was the way that Gray Fedora and his men seemed to react. They shrunk toward each other like water on a windshield seeking the lowest point. Crates were dropped and guns appeared in the vacated hands, pointing here and there like hounds seeking a scent. But there were no targets, no people.

      The nervous, panicked men fired to recover themselves, shooting blindly into the spectral merry-go-round, the phantom ferris wheel, the bright, ephemeral side show booths. And when their guns clicked empty, they backed as one toward the gate, Gray Fedora leading the way. They passed Heck as he stood transfixed just inside the boundary of Fairy Land.

      “Do you see that?” It was Shuck’s voice, strangled with awe and something else—fear? It was only just then that Heck realized Shuck was behind him just outside the gate. “What is it? Do you see that?”

      “I don’t see nothing.” It was Gray Fedora. He was well outside the gate now, and back in the darkness that he could understand. “None of us seen nothing. And if you know what’s good for
      you, you didn’t see nothing either.”

      “Hey, Boss, what about the stuff?”

      “We’ll come back in the morning. It ain’t going nowhere. We got our guys here to keep an eye on it, right Shuck?”

      “Yeah, sure, I guess.”

      The dark men melted back into the night. The sound of their automobiles briefly receded into the darkness. Shuck followed them as far as he dared, then found a place where he could sit under cover and wait for dawn. He wanted no part of what he had seen, what he had heard. By morning, he was sure he could convince himself it had not happened. By morning, he was sure he could convince himself that he was still the toughest dog in the yard.

      By morning, Heck and the cases of booze were gone from Shelby’s Reach. But they had not gone together.

      1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

        You have some great patches of prose there, especially in part 2. I don’t see how part one is connected to parts 2 and 3 except for the existence of Fairy Land, but I’d be glad to find out. The characters are so believable and the picture is so clear that my imagination tricked me by making me think I’ve just seen a part of a movie in HD)

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks Lucretia. This story came flooding out with lots of material I’ve had stored away in the little gray cell closets (little gray wine cellar??), and apparently it’s got energy enough to keep going. Corrigan’s presence is still felt in Fairy Land, just 15 years after his death. There’s lots more going on here than Heck or Shuck or even the Gray Fedora have imagined.

        1. snuzcook

          Yeah, I deserve to be scolded. Was a time when I was clear on the other end of pendulum swing with strict adherence to the 500 and proud of it! And I do think it improved a writing a good deal. Recently I’m so delighted when inspiration strikes that I just have to share…all of it!

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        This is just so great. You obviously spent time researching the eras here, something I applaud. Also, we just arrived in Seattle for a few days, so where can I find Fairy Land?

        1. snuzcook

          So sorry, Reatha. Fairy Land is a creation for this prompt, though the story has roots in real occurrences with great literary license. West Seattle once had a seaside park known as Luna Park, and the Colman Pool is the only remnant–a salt water swimming pool. Today’s Golden Gardens Park in Ballard was the site of a very short-lived similar beach-side amusement park built in 1908 by a man named Treat, a real estate developer and local entrepreneur, who died in the 1920s. As one of many contributing authors with a community history project back in 1988, and later working with the local historical society, I became familiar with 1st and 2nd hand accounts of Prohibition rum runners who would bring their contraband ashore on secluded beaches in the dark of night.

          Hope you have a wonderful visit! We are expecting wonderful weather for the holiday weekend (but don’t tell anyone! we count on our reputation as a rainy, depressing corner to keep overcrowding to a minimum!).

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Me again, we were at Tillicum Village, Blake Island, today and the history sounded a bit like your story, mansion built but abandoned, rum runners, etc. Weather was wonderful! I won’t tell anyone.

    3. Observer Tim

      Where’s part 4? What happened to Heck and the booze? Or is somebody coming by even later to see the next layer of the mystery? Waaaaa!

      You did a great job creating the atmosphere here, Snuz. I could almost picture the first part in 18 frame per second sepia tone and the second two in atmospheric black and white. The descriptions are spot on and really help create the place and the people. This one is a definite ‘gulp’ (no offense to Heck). 🙂 🙂 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Nobody’s gonna bother you on the length here, not after they’re read it. I knew some had to be real, the way you write about it .I had no idea there were Rum Runners in those days especially in Seattle. Perfect weather huh? Send some. We’ve had seventy stright days without rain and day time highs flirting with 100 degrees each day. You can twist your ankle with some of the cracks in the soil. Three months before, we were drowning people in wild rivers and had 25 inches of official rainfall in three months.

    4. snuzcook

      FAIRY LAND (PT 5)
      For those who wanted a bit more, here is Part 5–this is clearly going to be a long story that will have many moving parts. Party 4 introduces more context and I don’t feel it needs to go here. Thanks for your indulgence

      Samuels entered the sun room office of his employer with the silent, practiced steps of an experienced butler. He made a slight sound so she would not be startled. “Mrs. Madison?”

      “What is it, Samuels?” The woman was dressed in a handsome navy dress with a single strand of pearls. She was seated at a writing desk surrounded by big leafed plants and bright windows. The view outside was of a wide lawn bordered by gray winter trees. The sky was a patchwork of white and gray that matched her carefully coiffed hair. She did not look up from the letter she was writing.

      “You asked me to tell you if I heard anything more about Shelby’s Reach.”

      The woman’s hand paused ever so slightly in the smooth motion of writing, then resumed to the end of the line. She looked up.

      “Yes?”

      “There was a report of unusual activity again two nights ago, the night of the rain storm. A passing ferry reported lights just before the storm hit.”

      “I suppose someone might have driven out to the Reach. The road isn’t closed.”

      “But they were unusual lights, they said. Bright lights like it was lit up for a party. The lights came on suddenly, and then the lights just went out.”

      “Could they see if maybe there was a party of some kind? Someone could have trespassed and had some kind of gathering there.”

      “They said they didn’t see anything, really. The lights went out and then the rain came, so it was impossible to see clearly at that distance.”

      “Thank you, Samuels.”

      “Yes, ma’am.”

      “And Samuels, I will be going out for lunch today. Could you have the car brought around?”

      “Yes, ma’am.”

      Samuels left and the woman put down her pen. This news changed her plans for the day entirely. She would have to go see the her. She looked up at the photo of her father-in-law on the wall, still wrapped in a band of black. The black mourning band was a bit much, she thought, twenty years after his death, but it had to do with her husband’s unresolved issues with his domineering father and a need to show an exaggerated gesture of loss. Or maybe it was a reminder that the old man was truly dead.

      “What are you playing at, Nathaniel?” She whispered, and then added in an ironic whisper to herself, “And what will I have to do to stop you?”

      1. snuzcook

        Oops, the woman is Nathaniel Corrigan’s daughter-in-law, so she is Corrigan, not Madison–Duh! Originally she was going to be his widow, remarried, but I changed my mind…

      2. cosi van tutte

        Bring on Part 6! This is an intriguing story, snuz. I find myself at the end of each part wondering, “And then what happened?”

        And, just so you know, I really like this part -> “The black mourning band was a bit much, she thought, twenty years after his death, but it had to do with her husband’s unresolved issues with his domineering father and a need to show an exaggerated gesture of loss. Or maybe it was a reminder that the old man was truly dead.” It says a lot about the father-in-law’s character.

        My Internal Editor, however, put down his jumbo bag of Reeses to quibble about one small thing: “She whispered, and then added in an ironic whisper to herself…” Is ironic the right word? For some reason, I keep thinking that pensive might be the better choice, but that could just be me and my fifty-five cents. 😀

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Cosi!

          I’m with your IE on that line–it doesn’t work for several reasons. It is yellow highlighted in my Word doc and will be reworked with many others. Pensive is a good alternative, but I think it will go in a different direction. Good catch!

      3. Observer Tim

        I am very glad that I re-trawl the length of the prompt; otherwise I would not have found this gem. I’m a tad curious about what happened in part 4, but even more interested in where this is going from here. Like Cosi, I love the bit about the black mourning band on the photo. 🙂

        I can still see this in black and white, with some of the greats Kerry could name off the top of his head playing the lead roles…

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Tim!
          Guilty confesson: I trawl, too–I do a ctl f, and enter today’s date to find any new posts that have happened. If I don’t have much time, I hit ctl f and search my name just to see if there are any new responses to my posts. Don’t know if everyone knows they can search that way.

          As to the story, so glad you are enjoying it! There are enough new pieces to be revealed that I just might be able to sustain it into a novelette. I have a lot of material that had been archived in my unconscious.

          When I was doing research for the history book, I actually had a time-travel experience (mental fatigue and data overload); I got up from my desk after hours of pouring through old newspapers and actually said to my co-worker, “I’m going down to Franks to look at the new shoes in their ad,” and had to catch myself. Franks had closed 80 years before. >.<

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            I’m also glad I came back to look. I’m enjoying where your story is going and I understand about the time-travel thing.

  34. Trevor

    Word Count: 685

    FearPark

    A yellow moon shone brightly in the sky as Marlene Talbott, Anna Rodman, and Kelsey Carmichael pulled up outside their destination: FearPark. For ten years, the once popular amusement park had stood empty. Back in 1995, on a hot summer day when the park was crowded with families and tourists, a rollercoaster derailed, sending several people falling to their painful demise. To avoid any ensuing lawsuits, the park owners opted to close down the park.

    As the girls walked into the park, they could see the park hadn’t aged well. The wooden walkways were loose and creaky, the booths had fallen into disrepair, and the metal rides were covered in dark brown rust. “This place is disgusting.” Kelsey, the germaphobe of the group, exclaimed. “I can’t believe we agreed to do this!”

    Earlier that week, the girls had been dared to sneak into FearPark and take a group selfie at the top of the infamous rollercoaster. Not being ones to back down from a challenge, the stubbornly prideful friends agreed. But now that they saw how decrepit the park had become, they were regretting their decision to climb up onto the rollercoaster of death.

    “Let’s just get it over with and go home. If I’m not home by midnight, my Mom will kill me!” Marlene explained. She was just as restless to leave the park just as much as her friends, but she wasn’t about to let them know how scared she was. The chill breeze picked up as the girls approached the rollercoaster.

    Just then, Marlene’s eardrums were assaulted by a barrage of sound. Loud pop music began blaring from the speakers set up nearby. Marlene turned to see several of the old, rusted rides start to move as if they were brand new. The Fearsome Ferris Wheel turned at a steady pace. The Monster Merry-Go-Round turned, each of the creature-shaped rides going up and down as they went around. The Tilt-O-Whirl of Terror spun around at a nausea-inducing rate.

    “What the hell’s going on?” Marlene shouted as she turned to Anna and Kelsey. But to her shock, her friends were nowhere to be found. Marlene was completely alone….

    At least she thought she was. As quickly as it started, the music and rides came to an abrupt end. Marlene was now thoroughly terrified. She wanted to run, but her legs froze when she saw her.

    A girl stepped out of the shadows of the rollercoaster. She looked to be 12 years old. Her face was covered in cuts and bruises. A bone jutted painfully from her right leg, causing her to limp as she approached Marlene. She turned to run away, but was stopped by two boys who stepped out from behind the hot dog stand. Both boys had their forehead caved in, revealing a mess of brains and blood. Marlene realized that she was surrounded by bloody, disfigured bodies, all walking toward her with the same lifeless look in their eyes.

    “Get away from me!” Marlene shouted as she grabbed the mallet from the nearby Whack-A-Mole game. “I said, get away!”

    ***********************************************************************************************************************

    When Marlene didn’t return home, her mother started calling her friends to see what happened. When she learned about the dare through Marlene’s boyfriend, Dylan, she sent the police to go check on her. She was certain Marlene was fine, but she wanted to teach her a little lesson about sneaking off behind her back.

    But when the police arrived at FearPark, they came across a horrifying scene.

    Marlene sat on the ground in a fetal position, a bloody mallet clutched tightly in her hands. Her clothes were also soaked in crimson liquid and her eyes expressed a level of terror unimaginable for someone so young. And not far away from her, lying near the rollercoaster that caused so many deaths in the past, were the mangled bodies of Anna Rodman and Kelsey Carmichael. As one of the officers dispatched for backup, the other went to attend to Marlene. That’s when he heard what she mumbling under her breath.

    “They were coming for me……they were all coming for me……”

    1. Observer Tim

      I have to echo Snuzcook on this one: chilling. You did a great job setting the atmosphere and the story is a classic very well executed. Great job! 🙂 🙂

      I noticed one place where some editing would help. You had “the park owners”, “close down the park”, and “walked into the park” and another “the park hadn’t aged well” a little close together. My suggestion would be to rephrase them as “the park owners”, “close down”, “walked in”, and “the place hadn’t aged well” respectively to take out the repetition.

  35. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Amusement Park

    The lack of life was not nearly as eerie when you weren’t alone. In fact, it was somewhat peaceful. Songs played that were the sounds we had once spun on merry-go-rounds to and screamed on rollercoasters with.

    Once, I told myself, things you had once done. Things that, in your prime, were wonderful and magical became senseless and loud.

    I realized that I hadn’t been to an amusement park since I was a kid, when one night I crept out without my parents’ permission to a world previously unknown to me. And soon I was in awe of that world. I would have done anything to go back to smell the smells, and ride the rides, and share the air with the thousands lost in that world with me.

    And then you got old, and that wasn’t for you anymore. There were better things to do and when there wasn’t better things there were worse things to do, my subconscious mocked me. I stopped suddenly and stood to breathe in the faint smell near one of the food stands.

    Was it worth it? I asked myself. But I wasn’t even sure what I meant.

    Did I mean to give up my dream of being a clown or a ride attendant to become someone who’d make a difference instead? If that was, in fact, what I meant then yes, it was.

    Or maybe I meant if it was worth it to sneak out just that once years ago? If that was what I meant then I didn’t know. I guess it would have been worth it. Better to have loved and lost than to never loved at all.

    But I knew that wasn’t it. And I did know what I meant but I was too scared to answer. I looked at my granddaughter who was fascinated by the lights and sounds as she ran through aisles of rides and stalls.

    Had she been to an amusement park before? Yes. Probably. There was no reason she wouldn’t have been. I looked at her again and saw her climbing up onto a horse on a merry-go-round. Sharp music blasted from the ride, but it was somehow relaxing.

    “Grandpa! Grandpa! Come ride with me!”

    I smiled and shook my head, told her to go on without me as I sat on a nearby bench. I still couldn’t bring myself to give myself what I wanted. I refused to let myself be who I wanted to be, but I was who people needed me to be. Was that bad? I couldn’t answer that. But I could answer my other question.

    “It wasn’t worth it,” I told the old, empty amusement park.

    1. snuzcook

      I like this very much, Riley. I like the tone, the questions the narrator puts to himself. Creates an immediate connection to the reader. Very touching piece.

      One place you switched when your MC spoke to himself in 2nd person I felt might be more effective remaining in 1st person: “And then you got old, and that wasn’t for you anymore.”

    2. Reaper

      Haunting and beautiful Riley. The tone is very sad but with an amazing message. I noticed the passage that snuzcook mentioned but didn’t take it as a switch to speaking in second person to himself. I thought it was a universal you in an understandable voice, or a break into speaking to the audience which was a little jarring but not in a terrible way. Sometimes I like it when a story does that personally.

    3. Observer Tim

      Wow, this got existential. I love the philosophical direction you took this, and the way you leave the reader wondering which parts are memories, which parts are thoughts, and which parts are so-called reality. 🙂 🙂

      One sentence threw me a bit, “If that was, in fact, what I meant then yes, it was.” but on reflection it fits and it works.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I must join in with the others. I liked the second person switch, try it with one word switched…….. ‘And then you get old and it isn’t for you anymore.’

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      I saw this as a commentary on a life sadly lived without joy, by an MC who “refused to let myself be who I wanted to be…”, but who still cannot get on the merry-go-round. Well done.

  36. jhowe

    Curtis approached his professor timidly with the strange piece he had found. He brushed the dirt from it and turned it in his hands waiting.

    “Yes Blakely, what is it?” Professor Swan said.

    “It’s a piece of bone I think,” he said handing the artifact to the older man with thin white hair.

    Professor Swan examined the volleyball sized piece and smiled. “What category would you file this bone under Blakely?”

    “Category? Well, it kind of looks like a dragon head, but….”

    “Yes, I too think it looks like a dragon head, but it’s not bone, it’s wood. And judging by its remarkable condition, I’d say we can thank many layers of paint for preserving the wood so nicely.”

    “I’m sorry sir, I thought….”

    “Don’t be sorry Blakely, it’s a good find.” The professor dropped it in a cloth bag. “Where’d you find it?”

    Curtis showed him the spot he’d been digging and received instructions to carry on. By the end of the day he had a relatively large pile of wooden pieces, many of which resembled large animal parts.

    “Blakely my boy, it looks like you’ve unearthed an ancient carrousel.”

    “A carrousel?” Curtis said, excitement starting to creep in. “How ancient do you think it is?”

    “We’ll run some tests, but I’d say five or six hundred years at least.” The professor noticed the quizzical look on the boy’s face. “Yes, it would be difficult to explain that a carrousel existed in the middle of Utah in the fifteen or sixteen hundreds wouldn’t you say?”

    “Definitely,” Curtis said.

    “Let’s call it a day. We’ll hit it again in the morning.” The professor started walking toward the tents. “I wonder what’s for supper, I’m starved.”

    Morning finally came after a fitful night of tossing and turning. Curtis rushed through breakfast and hurried to the dig site with his tools. When he rounded the hillside where he’d been digging he stopped and gaped. A magnificent display of brightly painted horses, unicorns and dragons silently rotated on a platform. A metal canopy tented the carrousel that spun and the animals moved up and down. A solitary figure approached. It was Professor Swan wearing a white tuxedo and a purple top hat. He carried a bamboo cane.

    “Well don’t just stand there Blakely, start the music!”

    Have you ever written yourself into a corner? I do it all the time. Rather than discard this and start over, I’d like to invite any of you to add a final paragraph or two that will give this story suitable resolution. If someone comes up with something, at least I won’t look like a total ignoramus.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hey, jhowe!

      I decided to take your challenge (and a certain amount of liberties with your characters):

      Morning finally came after a fitful night of tossing and turning. Curtis rushed through breakfast and hurried to the dig site with his tools. When he rounded the hillside where he’d been digging, he stopped and gaped. A magnificent display of brightly painted horses, unicorns and dragons silently rotated on a platform. A metal canopy tented the carrousel that spun and the animals moved up and down. A solitary figure approached. It was Professor Swan wearing a white tuxedo and a purple top hat.
      He carried a bamboo cane.

      Professor Swan twirled his cane and danced a two second soft shoe. “Blakely, my dear boy. Come! Play me some music.”

      Blakely grabbed a handful of sand and threw it at the Professor. “You liar!”

      The Professor brushed the dirt off.

      “You fake-hearted, skeevy liarface! ‘Oh, yes! it would be difficult to explain that a carrousel existed in the middle of Utah in the fifteen or sixteen hundreds wouldn’t you say?” I don’t know. What do you say? Huh? What do you say?”

      “I say you’re getting hysterical.”

      “Hysterical?”

      “Oh, yes. Blakely, my dear boy, you are hysterical.”

      “Of all the rubbishy insults! You knew that the carrousel was there. Admit it. You knew. You somehow pieced it all together when I was sleeping and now look at it! It’s running like it’s brand new, but it’s not brand new!”

      “Blakely. Blakely. You’re going to make yourself ill.”

      “Oh, shut up with your fakeness. Explain yourself, Professor.”

      Professor Swan returned to the carrousel. The animals slowed as he approached them. “You are just a minion. I don’t need to explain anything to you.”

      Curtis was too furious to say anything intelligible to that. So, he stamped his foot on the dusty ground and yelled.

      “Have you considered the possibility that this is only a dream?”

      “No. And no it isn’t.”

      The Professor half-turned. “Are you so certain, Blakely?”

      “Very.”

      “As certain as when you thought that the dragon’s painted head was a bone?”

      “More certain than that.”

      “But it could be a dream. And I…I could be a thing of your nightmares.”

      “It is not a dream. Quit trying to fake me out. I know that this is real and I don’t even know how it’s real but I know it is. You somehow reassembled that whole thing and I don’t even know how you did it.”

      “Maybe, my dear boy, it isn’t real.” He pointed his cane at the carrousel and shouted the word, “KAZZZZZOOOO!”

      The carrousel disintegrated. The individual pieces sank deep into the sand. The dragon’s head was the last part to disappear.

      Curtis frowned. “Okay. Are you going to explain what that was all about?”

      “It was a test of my abilities and I do believe that I passed. Play me some music, my dear boy, so that I may dance to my victory.”

      “And then what?”

      “Then we move on to the next test, my dear boy.”

      1. Chad J. O'Brien

        Awesome, both of you. Very creative, Jhowe. Cosi van Tutee, I love how you added onto it in a way that you could make your style of writing fit into someone else’s piece like a puzzle. Brilliant.

      2. Observer Tim

        This is a wonderfully clever start, JHowe, and an interesting challenge. I love the setting you created, and how Cosi took it and ran with it. The whole idea is fascinating, strange and engaging. Great job, both of you! 🙂 🙂

        Oh, and to make sure that others realize more than one ending is possible, I added my own much shorter ending below. This puts me in mind of one of those ‘Choose your own adventure’ books from when I was a kidling.

      3. jhowe

        Cosi, when you accept a challenge, you really run with it. This was great. You even left room for a sequel. The strangeness and the magic was needed I think to make this piece work. Thanks for saving me from being an ignoramus.

        1. cosi van tutte

          Thanks, jhowe!

          And thanks for writing such a good first part. It made it easy for me to come up with my half of the story. 😀

          For the record, I can’t imagine you being an ignoramus.

    2. Reaper

      I wasn’t sure where this was going but it felt like a strange cross between the Book of Mormonand Something Wicked this way Comes. I was liking it a lot. Then Cosi took it and it got a feel of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (not so much Charlie which is okay, just a different flavor) and I liked that two. There is a definite switch between the two but they also work strangely well together. Good work you guys.

    3. Observer Tim

      I wrote this before reading Cosi’s.

      Curtis let his mouth hang open a moment, then stumbled forward.

      “What the hell is this, Professor?”

      “I thought it was obvious. This appears to be a carrousel doesn’t it, Blakely?”

      “Well yes, but how is it…? How did you…?”

      “Have you considered finishing one of your questions, Blakely? Regardless, I asked you to start the music.”

      “Where are we? How is this even here?”

      “A very good question, my boy. And here is your answer: A magician never reveals his secrets.”

    4. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Lovely story, jhowe. It takes me back to ‘Now you see me’. Though you could easily end the story where you ended it and have the readers draw their own conclusions as to what happened (the story totally works that way), I was inspired by it and here’s my ending (P.S. I know the feeling.):

      “Well don’t just stand there Blakely, start the music!”

      Curtis dropped the tools to the ground. “I don’t have any music, Professor.”

      “Yes, you do.” Professor Swan mounted one of the unicorns in one jump and waved his cane. “Come on, now! We don’t have all day.”

      The old carousel creaked in the wind, and the bells ornating the dragons necks gave out a crippled jingle. The scene was becoming progressively terrifying. Curtis tood a step back.

      “Professor, I don’t understand what you want me to do.”

      “It’s all in your hands, my boy. Start the music, for Heaven’s sake!”

      Curtis looked at his hands, doubting if he was supposed to take the professor’s words literally. There was nothing special about his calloused fingers and bitten fingernails.

      “Start the music!” The professor’s voice travelled with the wind and sounded so close, as if he had shouted it right into Curtis’ ear. The carousel spun faster, and the wooden animals squeaked and jingled louder. Curtis looked at his hands again and whispered, “Start the music.” His fingers trembled and fluttered uncontrollably, until they settled over an invisible piano and moved along the invisible keys.

      The professor applauded. “Louder!”

      Curtis felt the rush of energy in his fingertips and as it flowed though them, music entered the world, beautiful and intense, tickling the boy’s senses.

      “Professor?” The music continued, rising and falling with the wooden horses. Professor Swan swayed his cane to it, and hummed the tune. “Professor, how can I do that?”

      “You’re awakening, Blakely. People have always dreamed of getting back to their past, and you are the one who can bring the past forward. You are the Great Resurrector, the last of your kind.”

      1. jhowe

        Now this… this, is fantastic. Why didn’t I think of this? It’s as if you completed my thoughts that I couldn’t get to come out. The only problem is: the writing is too good. You have to misplace a couple of comas and mix a tense or two to make it realistic, you know, the way I write.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          And I’m hooked on every one of you and wish we could sit around my fireplace in the dead of winter, as much winter as San Antonio can muster, drink scotch and gin all night and perhaps into a second, discuss life, writing styles, lost loves, fears in the night, .lost dreams, wishes, disappointments, wrong turns and just life in general. This wish is sincere on my part. I may be old but the heart beats young, younger than I dare imagine.

          1. jhowe

            Make mine a bourbon, if you please, with perhaps a good craft beer chaser. After we get done discussing life, I think we’ll all be a little smarter and thoroughly entertained.

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