by MD Maurice
for an assignment about a trip and a revealing experience at an amusement park.
|Word Count: 1000
Plot: An ride turns into a deeper experience
Setting: An amusement park ride
End: The end of the ride bring a realization that the experience meant more
The building was hard to miss, looming high above the colorful landscape of the theme park. Even if you managed to overlook the nearly electric pink paint or the cleverly constructed façade, you would be hard pressed to ignore the screaming. Even thirteen terrific stories above the ground, the screams emanating from the Tower of Terror seemed somehow amplified in the gloomy afternoon rain.
“Jen, that doesn’t look like too much fun.” I said.
My friend tugged on my arm. “No, it’s great! You’ll love it.” she assured me.
We reached the gate. The screaming was more muffled here. From this new vantage point, I could make out the large holes in the side of the edifice. Through these holes, I caught glimpses of horrified faces as they hurtled straight down, thirteen stories in a dark freefall.
“Jen…” I started, but she cut me off.
“It goes so fast. You will LOVE it,” she insisted.
Before I could protest, the line surged forward. Excited riders weaved around partitions and were deposited in front of what appeared to be a massive elevator doors. I stared for a long time at the “last chance” exit ramp on my right. A few steps in that direction and I’d be back on the outside, safe…
Jen must have anticipated my plan. She grabbed me by my shoulders. “Melissa, remember why you are here? You are celebrating the start of your new life. This trip is about new experiences, facing fears and doing things you’ve never done before and you made me promise not to let you back out.”
Jen was right. After three long years, my divorce had been final just a week. This trip not just a vacation, it was a rebirth. I just hadn’t expected freedom to come in the form of abject terror.
“Its not going to be as horrible as you imagine.” Jen assured me. The door opened and we were ushered inside.
My hands shook as I belted myself in. I turned to Jen and threatened to kill her if it all went badly. She laughed. Doors opened and we lurched forward. We traveled along a hallway, passing the hotel scenery while the ride’s storyline was narrated over our heads. The voice stopped and the carriage began to shake. The lights when out.
Until that moment, “pitch black” was an expression I had used but its meaning had never been pressed upon me with such clarity. There was nothing in front of my eyes except an expanse of black so deep and thick, it was as if I had been blindfolded with velvet. There was a sensation of being suspended and then we plummeted. The carriage came briefly to rest in front of one of those gaping holes. I caught a glimpse of a blue sky and a few passing birds, before we plunged again. I could feel the unforgiving displacement of my internal organs as we dropped. This time our descent was interrupted for mere seconds before becoming a harrowing ascent, at the rate of several floors per second.
I think I must have been raving in terror though the speed at which we were now being dropped, stopped, shot upward and dropped again, made it difficult to catch my breath. We moved fast but I was conscious of everything. My body, and worse, my mind, knew every fraction of gravity we cheated, faked and fumbled. Every movement in our jagged and horrific progression registered in painful, conscious vibrations across my heart, my stomach, and knotted intestines. Each time we came to rest, my chest fluttered with hope that the horror trek was finally over, until we jerked into movement again. The relief faded as quickly as the light.
Then it was over. How long had it lasted? My throat felt raw and my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth. My legs began to convulse. Jen waited while I composed myself and rose unstably.
“That was the worst thing I’ve ever done.” I croaked.
“Seriously? You hated it?” I marveled at the surprise in her voice. I started to respond but we were already on the move, herded out through the exit gates and through the gift shop.
“We should get you a tee-shirt.” Jen exclaimed.
How could I wear something on my chest that said, “I survived the Tower of Terror”, when I obviously had not? I was convinced that I had left some small, virtually insignificant organ back there on the carriage that had been shaken, shocked and forced lose.
We filtered past a bank of screens, each displaying a digital picture taken at a specific point in the ride. I found our section of the carriage and we broke into wild peals of laughter. In the shot, I am not scared straight into my seat with my eyes screwed tight in fear. I am pivoted toward Jen, facing her with my eyes open, shouting at her. I didn’t look terrified, I looked pissed off. The camera flash had illuminated my features. My cheeks were flushed and my eyes so bright, they seemed to spark in the darkness that surrounded me. I was entirely animated. I looked, I realized, with a sudden rush of gratitude, free and alive.
Suddenly, I knew two things with certainty; I would NEVER go on that ride again for any reason known to God or man. And most importantly, I would never treasure something more than those few minutes when I had surrendered all my troubles and completely gave into the fear and the freedom of freefall. Everything I had sought to free myself from, had fallen away. For the first time in a long time, my heart had ached from sheer rush of adrenaline rather than the pain of heartbreak.
“Ready for the Aerosmith’s Rock and Roller Coaster now?” Jen asked, a little warily.
The stream of curse words I had planned to hurl at her died on my tongue. “I’m gonna need a few minutes.” I said instead.