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Ghosts of Foreverland

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The parking lot was empty as she stepped out of her car. That was the way it had been for years, and the silence set the stage quite nicely. Foreverland wasn't very big, but as far as local theme parks went, it had been popular and beloved by the families who visited. But now, only the brave dare set foot in it...

As she walked up to the rusty gate, a strange chill overcame her for a moment. She held her breath and pushed it open, slowly, so that the loud squeak wasn’t too loud. Above her head, there was an old sign. Once, it had glowed with pride, as it greeted each and every visitor. Welcome to Foreverland!, it had said. But now the neon lights had been permanently shut off, and a few of the letters were missing. She hung her head and silently continued on her journey.

To her right was the old gift shop. Formerly full of toys, candy and other memorabilia, it had been looted and cleaned out. For a moment, she took a look inside one of the windows. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t see past the shattered glass. Faintly, she could see her reflection, but it was distorted and broken. Well, it wasn’t that far off from the truth. 

To her left, was the first ride. It wasn’t too impressive, just the old carousel. She wandered over and gently touched the closest horse. Its white and golden coloring had faded with time, just as all things do, and its skin had begun to split and crack. The metal bar had been rusted, and some of the rust had moved to the horse, around the bar itself in a little dark red circle. It looked to her as if the poor horse had been speared through the body with a rusted lance and yet was still alive to keep suffering. At least, that’s the look she got from their dull, lightless eyes, and their wide open, moaning mouth. 

“I’m sorry,” she murmured.  “I’m so sorry,”

There was no answer. But she could almost swear the horse looked even sadder than before. 

She backed away, slowly at first, and then she broke out into a run. She wasn’t really escaping from anything. She just didn’t want to stay there anymore. Her shoes thudded against the cracked, plant-infested pavement. She leaped over rotten pieces of food, over sharp shards of broken glass and hard jagged plastic. Litter was everywhere, actually, and it was hard to avoid. There was the mundane, like old cups and pieces of old paper flyers. Then there were the more disturbing sights. Near a torn-down booth were a few ripped up and tortured stuffed animals who never managed to have a home. Cartoon masks, once worn by excited kids or sometimes park workers, now sat around in a few places, alone and glaring into her soul with their permanently and unsettlingly happy expressions. 

It wasn’t all junk, however. There were some things painted on the ground, too. Arrows to different rides, mostly, but some were more artistic. For example, near the old pirate-ship ride were waves and one lone shark fin that, at certain angles, looked realistic. She stood over it now, as she stopped to catch her breath. The paint had nearly been washed away, leaving only dull blue stains behind. It was depressing to look at, but at least it wasn’t red.

Ahead of her, at the very end of the park, was the rollercoaster. It was still standing after all this time, though it was rusted and the smooth orange paint had become chipped and faded. Yet, despite its sorry states, it took her breath away. It still watched over the rest of the park like a guardian, as if to say, “We may be in turmoil, but we are in this together, and we are still standing.”

She knew it’s where she had to go. Her feet were already heading down the path before she realized it. 

The silence as she took her walk was becoming unbearable. It was only her, her footsteps, and the lonely rush of the wind. The more she noticed it, the more pain began to eat away at her. She hugged herself, trying not to give into the sudden and inexplicable chill she felt the closer she got to the coaster.

For a moment, she tried to remember the park before all of this happened, before years of neglect and abandonment, and especially before the week that closed everything down for good. She could almost picture little kids and their parents running through hand in hand, their faces painted like animals and their eyes lighting up as they searched for a ride. She could hear the screams as people went on the rides, mixed with the endless loop of music to get anyone in the mood to have fun. And the smells that used to be here, smells of pizza and burgers and fried chicken, now replaced with the stench of garbage and rats, still haunted her just like everything else.  

Remembering didn’t help. It only made things more painful, as other memories came back. 

Sharp knives. Screams of pain. Begging for mercy. 

Laughs. Police sirens. A crowd of running people. 

Blood. So much blood.

She started sprinting towards the roller coaster and sought out the ladder. The rungs were rusted like everything else, and felt like they could break from under her at any moment. She didn’t care. She kept climbing. The memories seemed to chase after her. They followed her at every step.

Shattering glass. The smell of smoke. Choking sobs.

Gunshots. Falling people all around. 

Blood. Blood everywhere. It was following her.  

She could see it now. All of it. It stained the rides. Paved the concrete. It chased her up the ladder as she climbed, higher and higher, faster and faster, until she reached the top of the hill. The wind threatened to knock her out of balance. She leaned down and held onto the bar. It felt cold, and the chill she felt inside of her got worse. 

Her vision swarmed with red blurs. The pressure and the fear was more intense than anything she’d ever felt. She looked down, and she saw a crowd of faces. Suddenly, the park was full and everyone had come to visit her. She could feel their dull, hateful eyes locked on her every movement. They filled every space. She saw families with kids, workers and mascots, men and women alike, and they saw her. She wasn’t surprised to see them, really. That destroyed park was their home now. They lived among the frozen masks and dismembered stuffed animals, and they continued to ride the broken coasters and listen to the long-silenced music. 

Some of them were more familiar to her than others. But she knew them when they were screaming, and begging, and bleeding, and dying. The ghosts, though, had no wounds and the only emotions she could feel from them was anger and sadness. 

She could almost feel the knife in her hand now, hear the gun shots ring out. She remembered people falling all around her. Victim after victim she had rampaged, and her methods only got more creative and more sickening, until Foreverland itself was effectively slaughtered. 

It was a literal ghost town now, and it was all thanks to her. And yet, while her victims had suffered, she had not. She’d fled the cops and hid herself in a town miles away. Slowly, however, the guilt began to eat away at her. She had to face the crime she’d committed. 

She didn’t know why she did it. She couldn’t remember what her motive was, or if she’d even had one. It didn’t matter, anyway. What she did wasn’t something that could be justified by any sane person. 

The people below knew she was remembering. She could see it on their faces, hear it in their murmurs. They knew she felt guilty, but it wasn’t enough. 

She stood up. She was unbalanced, but it didn’t matter. She swept her gaze over all the spirits.

I’m sorry.

 She jumped.

Her life flashed before her eyes as she plummeted one hundred feet below. An instant later, she was dead. Just a bloody, mangled, lifeless body on the concrete. 

At least the memories had finally stopped.

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