Once the Ferris Wheel had been the height of fun. It had over seen all the laughter of the theme park but now all the rides sat empty and only the wind came to play.
Once the Ferris Wheel had been the height of fun. It had over seen all the laughter of the theme park but now all the rides sat empty and only the wind came to play.
He hadn’t thought about that day in a long time but watching the brightly light Ferris wheel turning, the memory stirred.
He had been a boy, excited to go on all the rides at the little amusement park. There had been bumper cars, boat swings, a paratrooper and the Ferris wheel with it’s bright yellow cages.
Then sirens wailed, news spread of an nuclear explosion at the power plant and everyone had to leave. He had gotten on to a bus with his family.
‘We’ll be back soon,’ his mother had said, ‘then you can go on the rides.’
But they never returned.
(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/03/20/22-march-2019/ with thanks)
I thought my mum had thrown all the photos of that day away but I found one in the bottom of a shoe box. Mum had mis-timed taking the photo so instead of our smiling faces were the backs of our heads.
Tears clouded my eyes and I was there once more at the theme park, riding the wooden ‘run away’ roller coaster with my younger sister. Our cries of delight echoed in my ears as we raced around the track and then my sister flew out of the cart as we rushed down the hill. Her fingers briefly touched mine then she was gone.
(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/01/17/12-january-2018/ with thanks).
The theme park had stood empty for years. The rides rusting away, nature slowly reclaiming the land back. Animals came and went, making their homes in the now forever dark Haunted House and the infamous Hall Of Mirrors. The wind played through the Big Wheel, making it rock and creak eerily. Water lapped in the lake and against the sides of the Swan Boats and the Bumper Boats.
People sometimes came still. They vandalised what they could, took things they could sell and did dodgy dealings. Other people were more respectful. They looked, took photos and memories before leaving in peace.
The demons didn’t enjoy when the mortals invaded their space. In the daytime, they were weak and busy working to do anything about it. At night though, the demons came together and did whatever they could to make people stay away from the abandoned theme park.
To the demons this land was now theirs. People had left it, so way should they be allowed back on it? There weren’t many places left the demons could linger safely together. However, the humans kept arriving in greater numbers since the location of the place had gotten out on the internet. And now someone was bound to see one of the demons and freak out as mortals often do.
The demons decided they weren’t going to take from the humans ever again. If they banded together and made a plan to take over then it would solve a lot of their issues. Slowly, all the demons began together. Their hour was near.
It was hard to see what the first building they came across was. April tried to peer through the mass of green and brown plants. Perhaps it had been a house? It looked small enough. The crew moved on, Gun reminding them about not touching stuff and that there mission was just to document the environment and air.
‘What does the reader say?’ April asked, falling into step behind Trigg.
He shot her look, which of course she missed due to the mask and helmet, then looked down at the needle.
April tried to see over his shoulder, but she still couldn’t make it out.
‘It’s got a little higher,’ Trigg explained.
Feeling uneasy, April looked around them. More buildings were growing up out of the vegetation and trees. It was hard to imagine that the city had once looked very different. Fallen branches, leaves and rumble crunched underneath their heavy feet. They walked slowly, each member of the group, but April, seemly getting on with their individual tasks.
After a few minutes, they came to a very large building that must have once been a high school. Whilst the others gathered on what once had been steps, but was now a level carpet of green moss and grass, April walked closer to the front of the building. She could make out no letters or signs, just the empty windows and was that sound beyond dripping water?
Deciding, she was wrong, April turned back and watched the men, digging around in their rucksacks for equipment. In her head set she heard Gun giving orders.
‘We need soil samples from these spots,’ he declared as he waved a plastic map in the air, ‘and air tests alongside them. If we find any water, we take samples of that too.’
‘What about animals or…humans?’ someone asked.
April guessed from the slightly nervous tone it was Babble. She picked him out, standing slightly away from the others on the left, in a faded blue suit with big baggy arms and a slightly wonky helmet. The glass visor on his mask looked slightly misty.
‘There shouldn’t be anything but us here,’ Gun spoke, ‘and if there is note it, but leave it alone. That’s not we are here for.’
‘Are we going to spilt up?’ Joe asked.
‘Not this time. Too easy to get lost and too dangerous,’ Gun explained, ‘we’ll start here, head towards the centre then come out again and go back.’
‘Sounds like a plan, boss,’ Nook cut in.
Gun carried on giving orders and make sure everyone knew they jobs. Finally, he got around to Nook and April. She had been walking back and forth in front of the building, trying to see further inside. However, the walls and roofs had fallen in blocking off what might have been classrooms and offices.
‘April get over here!’ Gun snapped.
April jumped and hurried over as fast as the heavy boots and difficult body suit would allow. Coming to stop between Nook and Gun, April thought she heard soft sniggering in her ears.
‘Guard duty here is extremely important. You need to stay visual at all times and report anything you see. Don’t just shot it. Remember the Code,’ Gun said in a low serous voice.
‘Right Boss,’ Nook rumbled back.
‘Don’t go wandering. There’s nothing worth salvaging here. It’s still all contaminated and we can’t risk bring any of that back.’
‘No problem,’ April put in.
Gun turned and addressed the rest of the crew with that statement. He ended with, ‘let’s get to work!’
Nook moved and began patrolling the area, drawing his gun as he did so.
April reached for her’s, finding it against her hip in one of her belt’s pouches. She took it out, barely feeling the weight of it in her leather gloved hands. She checked it then felt for her knife at her other hip. Feeling it there, she dropped her arms and began pacing in front of the building, her eyes darting everywhere and her ears listening for any other noises.
The minutes ticked by and April felt like they had been there a long time, though really it had only been about ten minutes. Gun hustled the crew along and they moved to the next marked spot on the map.
Coming to stand at what might have been a supermarket once, April clutched her gun tighter. The lack of bird sounds was really getting it her. It was well known that animals would go nowhere near the worse effected areas long after the third world war ended. Even now that was proving to still be the case.
She tried to recall things she had read and heard in the briefing about Pripyat. Beside from a little history about the original nuclear disaster and then the second one triggered by the war, she couldn’t remember anything else. She shivered and decided she had lost her interested in the place and wanted to go home.
The crew moved, leaving little green flags behind them at the marked spots, so anyone who came again could see where they had been. They arrived at the centre and April felt better that their mission was almost complete. Tall buildings rose on all side of them, battling with the trees to be seen. April felt a slight tugged to explore some of the buildings, the eagerness of seeing what lay within, but she stood her ground. She watched the four men taking all the samples. Gun and Trigg looking at the reader and talking softly about it whilst further away Nook walked slowly around them all, eyes glued to the ghost buildings.
‘We’ve got everything,’ Joe’s voice came loudly through.
‘Let’s pack up and move out. This place gives me the creeps,’ Gun added.
A muttering of agreement followed.
April sighed deeply and went to put her gun away, but a disturbing noise from behind her stilled her movements.
The first thing April noticed was the lack of sound. It felt unsettling. She looked around taking in the tall green leaf trees and bushes that almost hid city. Breathing heavily through her mask, she wondered if the communication system had broken again. She reached her gloved hands up and felt for the mic at her throat.
A crackling stopped her searching fingers and she heard Trigg’s voice muttering. She turned and looked over her shoulder, frowning. He was only a few steps behind her, looking through his rucksack. He pulled out a toxin reader and then announced he had found it.
Turning fully, April watched the rest of the crew preparing to move on again. The six large men who had either been standing or sitting, seemed to move as one and gather their rucksacks up.
April patched herself through to Trigg.
‘I can’t hear anything,’ she said.
Trigg looked up at her, ‘did you get sand in your speakers again?’
‘No. I cleaned my mask before we left. Come over here.’
Trigg pulled on his bag and went over to her. Together they stood on the ridge looking down at the city once known as Pripyat. They could just make out the collapsed roof tops of the tallest buildings and what seemed to be a Ferris wheel in the distance. A gentle wind ruffled the trees and above them the dark blue sky was growing with grey clouds.
‘There’s nothing to hear,’ Trigg said in a low voice.
‘I know there’s been a lack of animals since we got here…but I thought with all this green we’d at least hear birds,’ April responded.
Trigg looked down at the device in his palm and pointed a finger from his other hand at the screen. A small red arrow was waving between an arch of numbers. April’s eyes read it, but her brain didn’t understand it.
‘There’s still radiation. It’s low here, but further on it’ll get higher,’ Trigg explained.
‘Is everyone ready?’ Gun’s voice called through both their headsets.
A rattle of positive voices replied from the rest of the crew and with a wave of his hand, Gun started walking. The other men fell into place behind him. Their metal boots easily making work of the rough nature taken over ground.
‘Don’t take your helmet off,’ Trigg hissed.
‘Huh?’ April replied.
‘You didn’t all ready did you?’
‘Of course, I didn’t. And I won’t. How dumb do you think I am?’
‘Very,’ Trigg muttered.
April whacked him on the shoulder, ‘I’m not!’
‘Hey! You can have your lovers tiff later, come on,’ Nook cut in.
They both glanced at him, taking in his big grey body suit and black mask, then looking away.
Trigg moved first and walked passed him to catch up with the others.
‘Knew bring a girl would cause trouble,’ Nook added, ‘you gonna stay there or come?’
April tried to shake her head, but the mask and helmet made it difficult to. With a sign, she gripped a last look at the long abandoned city below and trudged over.
Nook pushed her in front of him and April began struggling her way through the jungle like scene. Keeping focus on Trigg’s rucksack with the bright neon orange stripes, she wished she could pull her knife and cut back some of the foliage. The rules which she knew off by heart, rang in head and she started muttering them under her breath.
‘Always wear your mask, gloves, suit and boots. Plan everything down to the last detail and know what you are doing. Keep someone in sight of you at all times and make sure someone can see you. Take only what you must. Leave everything else untouched. Note all discoveries. Don’t cut, damage or kill plants and animals on the surface. Don’t look directly at the sun.’
‘Do you really believe that?’ Nook scoffed in her ear.
Ignoring him, April switched off her mic. She then stepped over a fallen tree and found herself on what once had been a road. She stopped looking both ways and saw to the left the burnt remains of a small car.
‘Document that,’ Gun’s voice sounded in her ears, though it wasn’t directed at her.
She started walking over, but Nook grabbed and spun her. April slammed into Trigg’s side.
‘Keep a hold of your little lady, hey,’ Nook rumbled.
‘She’s not mine!’ Trigg snapped back and pushed April passed him.
‘What’s going on? Quit it. This isn’t a place for messin’ around in,’ Gun growled.
He came in-between them, but Nook and Trigg had already stepped away from each other. Quietly, he gave them both different tasks then went back over to Len who was jotting notes down on a crumpled pad of paper. He totally ignored April.
Leaving the men to it, April walked down the road. The stillness of the place still unnerving her.
To be Continued…
*These characters were originally from the story Obsolate and Plane, published last month; https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/obsolete/ I really like them and am seriously thinking about writing a dystopia novel with them.
**This story was inspired by The Daily Post’s daily prompt: Abandoned
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.
Reclaiming my inner badass at 50
At Least Trying Too
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