(From the Writer’s Digest creative writing prompt Haunted Amusement Park)
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?”
“Mom told me…closed since the ‘50’s.”
“…haunted…call it the Caretaker.”
“Don’t be stupid. That’s not real.”
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.
“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. 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, my tears blurring the view below. It’s changed from then, 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? 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.