He was waiting right where he said he’d be, inside the small roofed hut that covered the start of the track. A short line of cars was on the rails; they looked old, and the paint was faded and chipped, but there was no dust. An indication of how often they were used? I shuddered a little inside.
He glanced around nervously. “You brought the money?”
I handed him a brown paper bag. In it was pretty much everything I had. He peered inside, and I looked around. The place had been closed for years after some unspecified tragedy had put it out of business, but you could still get on the roller coaster if you paid enough. Fog was thick on the ground and eddying up and around the ride. Trees had grown tall under the track and were spots of dark green against thin floating clouds of white. Only one bird was brave enough to sing, and the song was muffled by the mist.
“You’re committed now,” he said, not relinquishing his hold on the bag. “No changing your mind, no refunds.”
Pursing my lips, I looked at the train of cars. That’s what my friend had told me. “Give him the money, and that’s it,” Andy had said. “There’s no turning back.”
I’d stared at him. “Then why should I do it?”
He’d grinned and lit a joint. “To brave the unknown, man. Some people would kill for that.” He drew in smoke, held it, released it slowly. “Been nice knowing you. I’ll tell ’em where you went. You know… after.”
There’d been rumors about the coaster ride for years, and it wasn’t like I had much of a life. Generally speaking, it sucked, so why not try something different? I’d asked around, done some research, and here I was, ready for adventure. Or maybe the skinny was wrong and at the end of the ride, I’d sail off into space, crash and die, and zombies would eat my sweet, young flesh.
No one ever came back, so no one knew.
Satisfied, he folded the bag and held it tightly in one hand. “Get in the first car.”
I climbed in, shaking only a little. “The track is safe? It won’t collapse under me or throw the train off?”
His bottom lip curled. “Safe enough.”
I lowered the bar, locking it into place. He pushed a lever, and the cars moved. For one brief moment, I wanted to get off so badly, I almost peed myself.
And then it was too late. The cars were climbing to the first drop, making that peculiar click-clack, click-clack, click-clack sound as they were mechanically dragged up the lift hill. The fog descended over the apex, hiding it from me, and that freaked me out more than I expected. If I couldn’t see it coming, I wouldn’t know the moment I reached the top and gravity would take me.
I gripped the safety bar in bloodless hands and clenched my ass muscles. It’ll be okay. I’m not going to die. They never find any bodies. I’m brave brave brave–I’m not going to die!
The cars changed angle, hesitated for a few long seconds, then whooshed down the first drop. My stomach flipped, then rose into the back of my throat. I’d never liked roller coasters. It was ironic as hell I’d voluntarily gotten on one.
Wind made my eyes tear and stream and yanked at my hair as I went up and down and around sharp curves, into one inversion and out the next, the cars seeming to pick up speed as they went. The thick fog flowed across the tracks, then away, and at one point, it almost felt like I was flying. Fear was replaced with exhilaration.
The fog thinned, and I spotted the end of the ride, but instead of slowing down for a sedate stop, the cars when faster. I screamed, exhilaration replaced with terror. I was gonna crash. I was gonna die.
Suddenly something large and round, like a giant magic mirror, burst into existence twenty feet in front of me directly over the track. Myriad colors swirled hypnotically in the center, then abruptly cleared to reveal an endless field of rushing stars.
I crashed into it, through it, arms raised in front of my face, eyes closed as horror swept through me.
All motion ceased.
I opened my eyes, dizzy and disoriented, and my jaw dropped. I was sitting on grassy ground. There was no roller coaster, there was no fog. It was a bright, sunny, perfect blue-sky day. About five yards away was a wood booth emblazoned with a hand-painted sign: INFORMATION. It was the only structure in sight.
I got up, dusted off the seat of my pants, and went over on shaky legs. A nice-looking lady greeted me. “How was the ride?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. “Still processing.”
“It takes some people a while.” She passed me a stack of brochures. “These will help you get started.”
I glanced at them but was too freaked out to read the titles. “Uh, what happened? Where am I?”
Her smile was luminous. “You’ve heard of parallel worlds?” I licked my lips and nodded. “Welcome to a different Earth. A better Earth.”
Went over the word count this week. Oops. 🙂
Word count: 880
Read more flash fics here.
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