The cracked tarmac stretched before Cory like a desert. Faded white lines and clumps of weeds lead the way to a sloped roof building. In the stifling summer evening, he felt glad of his loose dark clothing. Cory rearranged the straps of his small rucksack and his camera case. A few more steps and he stood at the entrance to the abandoned theme park. The damaged sign above welcomed him to Valley Peaks.
Excitedly, he took out the digital camera and turned it on. The high tech device felt heavy in his hands, but as he beheld the LCD screen, the camera became his third eye. Lining up the scene, he took a photo and captured the growing decay. Checking the screen, he took another of the collection of warning placards stating; keep out, no trespassing, danger!
He glanced around, listening, but heard nothing beside from his fast breathing and heartbeat. Cory wondered; is this how the world would look if everything was wiped out? He had this déjà vu every time he visited an abandoned place. He was drawn to these lost buildings for the solitude. They called to him and showed him the powers of nature. The photography was just an excuse.
Cory took out his phone, it was nearly seven PM and he had no signal. Shrugging, he set an alarm for an hour, hating to do so, but knowing it was needed. Last time, he had wondered around a manor house for over four hours. His mind having created the illusion that time had stopped. Putting the phone away, he tied back his wild-looking black hair.
With the entrance to the park looming, he strolled over. The pay booths and turnstiles stood like rotting teeth in a dead mouth. He felt a small shiver go up his spine as he ducked under. Straightening, he saw a large board with the remains of a map. He took a photo and moved closer. He could barely make out the words and images. The pathways were clear enough and he put into memory the figure eight pattern with a few dead end lines sprouting off.
Casting a look over his shoulder, his eyes caught movement. He twisted and realized there was nothing, but pure silence. How’s that possible? He wondered. Where are the birds? The wind? Cory felt uneasy. He had been in silent places before and they had never fazed him like this. He shuffled his feet just to make a noise. Nervously he licked his lips. Its fine, he told himself, not wanting to spoil the blissful stillness by speaking aloud.
The first ride was the tea cups. He stood before an empty circler platform and took a photo. Grass and weeds had taken hold of the platform, but not the uninhabited way he had hoped they would have done. He needed to move further into the park to witness nature’s real take over. He moved off to the dodgems, which held only one car. It was parked up next to the ticket booth, waiting for a driver. He heard a rustling come from behind. Cory spun, his eyes darting around for the source. It’s just an animal. He placed his camera against his chest and whistled loudly. The sound echoed, bring a bit of noise back to the park. He smiled a little and feeling more confident went to one of the rollercoasters.
The Crazy Mouse track was badly rusted. A splattering of blue paint clutched uselessly to the metal. Cory looked around for a cart, but didn’t spot one. He took a few photos and left. At a cross roads was an empty sign post, he turned right remembering the path shown on the map. After a few moments, in which he passed some boarded up shops, a mirror maze and a helter-skelter, he stopped. Cutting across the treeline was the main reason he had come here; the wooden rollercoaster. Excitement forced the un-easy feelings away as he broke into a jog. He felt a breeze on his face. A soft rustling came from the leaves and so did something else. Cory stopped and anxiously looked around, he couldn’t be sure, but it had sounded like a voice. It could have been a security guard or another urban explorer. Still though… He stepped off the path and behind a tree. He heard nothing more and after a couple of minutes, carried on.
The rollercoaster was across a bridge, under which was a barely moving dirty river. As Cory stepped onto the wooden planks, he heard creaking. He reached out for the rail then kept to the edge. To the left the river joined a lake and he could see the outline of lined up swan boats. Above them towered a Ferris wheel, the carriages silhouetted against the dusky sky. Seeing this, he realized that time was running out. As his feet touched the tarmac again, his ears caught a soft laugh. He spun and froze, but there was no one. This place is getting to me.
Breathing deeply, he followed the path. To his right should have been a pirate ship ride, but now there was only the fence for queuing. Next to it was the rollercoaster. He stopped and looked at the massive structure. The two rollercoaster trains were parked at the station, inviting invisible people on. The wooden track still looked stable, though large vines and bushes covered the lower sections and a number of saplings had grown though broken slots. He took some photos and then weaved his way around. At the highest point, he found a maintained ladder heading to the top.
Securing his camera, Cory shook the ladder with both hands. It vibrated and flakes of paint drifted off. He tested it out on the first three rungs and the ladder held. Slowly, he climbed upwards. When his hand hit only air after the last rung, panic raced through him. He looked over and saw a small platform. He pulled himself on to it and instinctively grabbed the handrail. The view was amazing. The whole theme park, the surrounding fields and woods were spread out around him. Across was another rollercoaster, made out of metal. To the side was the Ferris wheel. Further up the remains of a log fume and a haunted house.
Gently, he let go of the rail and brought up his camera. He felt the urge to rush taking photos, but knew he couldn’t do that if he wanted them to come out perfect. The light was going against him in the next few seconds. He took as many as he could and then climbed down. Dizzily and gratefully his feet hit the floor. He felt someone staring at his back. Expecting once again to see a security guard, he turned. Empty air filled the space. There was nothing to be seen, but a boarded up kiosk. Catching his breath, Cory decided to leave. It was risky coming here and he daren’t spend any more time. Recalling the straight route he had come, he went back to the bridge.
As he started to cross, the river rippled as something disturbed the water. He looked down. Can fish survive in there? Soft laughed caught his ears and his eyes darted around. It sounded like a child playing nearby. That’s impossible, my mind is playing tricks. Shaking his head, he walked off the bridge and heard the sound of footsteps following. This time he knew someone was there. He broke into a run. He flew towards the tree and pressed himself against it. He held his breath trying to calm himself down. He peered out, expecting at any moment a hand to grab him and a voice to shout that he was trespassing. The moments ticked by. Gradually, he stirred and saw that he was alone. There was no movement or sound from anything. The feelings of un-easiness and being watched crept back. He had to get out.
He ran down the pathway, believing if he just kept going he’d soon be fine. However, passed the helter-skelter, he heard the faint tune of fairground music. A part of him wanted to rest and figure out what was happening, but the other part of him urged him to on. He did so and felt sweat break out on his forehead. A large circle shape loomed ahead and he came to a halt. Am I at the tea cups already? He grabbed his knees and caught his breath. He could still hear the fairground music, but also laughed. He considered the shape and realized that this ride was different. It was too big and there were long shapes balanced on the platform. It was too dark for him to work them out.
He dug in his pocket for a small torch. Turning it on, the beam hit the head of an opened mouth horse. He heard a loud cry and stumbled backwards. He caught himself as he almost fell. He fumbled for balance then tried to keep the torch steady. The horse, frozen in a frenzied state, rose up above him. What the hell? It’s a merry-go-round. He fought for breath and his other hand clutched at his chest. Thoughts raced in his head and he decided he must have taking a wrong turn.
Shaking, he started moving away. The music stopped. Cory hesitated and regarded the merry-go-round. He heard a creak and the ride moved forward. Fear glued him to the spot. He knew that couldn’t be possible. There was no wind to move the heavy ride and there was no else here but him. Must be another mind trick, Let’s go. He back away. Only the music started up again and the laughed joined it. Without knowing why, he knew he had to get away. He fled back to path and found himself facing The Crazy Mouse. See, wrong turn, that’s all and the music is all in your head.
He sprinted on, keeping the torch beam on the path in front. There was a large shape fast approaching and Cory felt a sudden ache in his legs and arms, as he saw the tea cups. He took a breather and running footsteps echoed behind him. There’s nothing there. Nothing at all. It’s all in your imagination. He hugged his camera and went to the exit. A strong breeze hit his face as he ducked under the turnstile. His eyes flicked back and he saw a small shadowy figure. He gulped. Almost hit his head on the bar as he stood up. Then shot across the car park, praying he didn’t hear anything chasing after him.