Part V: Sewers, Resort Area-Chapter 4
The lights were nothing less than blinding. As dark as it was in the rest of the town, it only made the amusement park that much brighter…and no doubt creepier. It seemed that something was very “off” about this place. Theme park atmosphere was supposed to be one of fun and enjoyment. This however, had a darker duality do it.
Various popcorn and cotton candy stands littered the park grounds, along with your traditional win-a-prize challenges (Guess Your Weight, knock over milk bottles with a baseball). It was old-fashioned, but had been restored with some modern touches. A ferris wheel donned with electrical lighting dominated one section of the park. Overflowing trash cans sat against the stands, the spilled bags of old popcorn and stale cotton candy long forgotten.
There was carnival music playing, but it was lower-pitched and subtly out of tune, just enough that you didn’t notice at first. This had a foreboding, chilling effect. Other than this, the only other sound you could hear was the hum of machinery in various areas: the whirring of cotton candy makers, the creak and whoosh of the ferris wheel. It was all very ominous; the joyous shell of an amusement park with the sounds of life and cheerfulness completely drained from it.
The grated catwalk of a ground continued into the park, making some areas inaccessible as it dropped off into an endless abyss. There were no ledges to block you from falling, so I had to be careful where I stepped once again. The thought of getting this far and dying from falling was maddening.
One upside to this place was that I didn’t need my flashlight anymore. It was a nice break from only seeing up to five or six feet in front of you.
From what I could see, there weren’t any mutant dogs, flying Pterodactyls, or clawed sewer creatures. It was just me and the Park. And if I was lucky, there’d also be Cheryl, Cybil and Dahlia. Keeping my eyes peeled for any sign of movement, I went up to one of the stands that had a game where you shoot hoops for a prize.
Get three in a row and win a rabbit! I read aloud in my head at the sign. But wait…what was that on its mouth?
A stack of rabbits sat on the back shelf in the stand, dressed in red overalls. Apparently, these animals were called Robbie the Rabbit, who wore a wide Chesshire cat grin that unsettled me to the core. There was a substance that appeared to be….blood…on its chin and all around its mouth and it looked fresh.
“Please tell me that’s not real…” I cocked my brow, and tried to look at it from different angles. There was no way to tell for sure, but if the blood was a farce, it was very convincing. It wasn’t bright or liquidy, and instead seemed to have the right darkness and consistency of real blood.
The dolls seemed to stare back at me with their glossy, painted eyes and reminded me way too much of the realistic stare of porcelain dolls. I couldn’t take their stares anymore and walked over to the ferris wheel.
Like the other areas, it was completely deserted. The buckets creaked and groaned in protest at not being serviced. When one of the buckets came around, I caught a glimpse of a person. Whoever it was, they didn’t acknowledge me. So I ran forward, trying to catch another glimpse. I waited, and the seat finally came wheeling back around. It took me a few seconds, but I snatched a good look at the person inside. I wished I hadn’t soon after.
It was a woman slumped in her seat, her head leaning and tilted upward against the back of the bucketed gondola. A nasty, demented grin was painted on her face with black makeup for the fake lines of a smile. Blood ran down from a large gash in her neck.
That same eerie Robbie doll was clutched in her arms as if holding on for dear life. The creepy, bloody-mouthed grin seemed to be a trademark as his was the same as the others I’d seen. A voice of intuition suggested that this doll had something to do with her demise, sending a convulsion of shivers down my spine.
Backing away, I tried to tear my gaze from that painted face, but ironically was hard from the simple revulsion of it all. Stepping away, I decided to try to visit somewhere else, one with no dead bodies was preferable.
I wandered for a bit, and ended up at a popcorn stand. Leaning against the stand, I could see the brass meter that measured how hard you could hit the plate with a mallet. I remembered doing those once when I was a kid, getting a “Needs A Little More Muscle” rating. Suddenly, a small shadowy figure appeared beside me.
I gasped when I took in the size and shape, fearing it was the same creature from the elementary school…but it wasn’t. It was simply a shadowy ghost in the shape of a younger child.
From watching it, it seemed to repeat the same action over and over, never acknowledging my presence. From what I understood about ghosts, this was a residual haunt. They did not interact with the living and repeated the same act over and over again, like a video rewinding and playing for an eternity. Some people theorized it was an imprint on reality, a type of energy locked into the fabric of time.
The shadowy spirit would walk up to the stand, glance around at the environment, and then step up to the stand. It would wait, and then reach up as if to grab a bag of popcorn, then disappear and repeat this same sequence. This captivated me, and I watched it happen over and over as if mesmerized. I took a small step back and felt an absence of ground.
“Ah!” I cried, and shifted all of my weight forward. The chain link fence ended a foot behind me, going into the unknown abyss. I hadn’t noticed it when I approached the stand. I was just inches away from falling into eternity.
I got back up, and surveyed a Merry-Go-Round nearby. The painted horses bobbed and swayed, moving up and down to the offbeat carnival music. It was eerie without the usual cheery accompaniment. After looking it over for a moment I noticed a large object was placed in the middle of the carousel.
My curiosity peaked, I walked up the short metal stairs of the carousel’s entrance. The horses seemed to grin even wider at me as I approached, much more than I was comfortable with. As soon as I set foot on the Merry-Go-Round, the lights dimmed, and I felt reluctant to go any further. After moving closer I could make out more of the dark shape in the middle. It was an ancient-looking wheelchair…with Cybil sitting in it.
“Cybil?” I said uneasily. She sat motionless, slumped in the wheelchair with her neck propped at an unnatural-looking angle. Then she turned her head to acknowledge me in a slow and overly methodical fashion. She sat up in the same manner and pushed herself out of the wheelchair. Immediately, I could tell something was wrong with her and my internal alarms were going haywire.
I wanted to move closer out of concern but my instincts wouldn’t allow it. Cybil’s face slumped forward awkwardly, as if she was a puppet held up by unseen strings of a marionette.
“Cybil, say something! What’s wrong?” I called, feeling a malevolent presence radiating from her. The closer she got the more this feeling deepened. And her eyes…..they were just wrong. They were so empty. The closer she got, I saw no life behind them and wondered if she was even self-aware.
I opened my mouth to ask her again, when both of her arms came up, aiming her pistol straight at me.
“Cybil, don’t…” But she had already begun her assault. A bullet came whizzing past me, and I reflexively swayed. The bullet ripped across the top of my shoulder, adding another wound to the lot.
The cold floor greeted my knees, and my shoulder was on fire with pain. My hand instinctively grasped the wound, and blood seeped through my fingers. Cybil turned, robotically honing in on me and shuffling closer. Her movements were so stiff and zombie-like. She was in some sort of trance, I was sure of it. What could I do? I didn’t want to kill her, but it seemed I may have no choice.
Before I could get up, she raised her gun and prepared to fire again. I rolled out of the way, the shot ringing loudly against the metal floor of the carousel.
Something tumbled out of my coat pocket after I finished rolling. That bottle that I had picked up from the Director’s safe was now on its side, the red liquid now glowing bright. The Aglaophotis….
“Why is it…?” I thought, but couldn’t finish due to another report from Cybil’s gun.
It narrowly missed me again, and I needed to act quickly. I had nothing to fend her off without killing her, and I still didn’t have a clue how to use the Flauros.
If anything, splashing the Aglaophotis liquid in her eyes might stun her long enough to disarm her. Moving lithely, I snatched up the bottle and got another five feet away , using the horses for cover. Cybil continued following, tracking my movements stiffly with her gun. I ducked and weaved between the horses as cover from her gunfire, and it proved relatively easy due to her movements being so slow.
I continued this method until I was far enough from her sight to lose her, and I was finally able to creep up behind her. Uncorking the bizarre red substance released the strong smell of the liquid that assaulted my nostrils right away. I had to cover my nose from the acrid and musky odor.
I moved in with the bottle raised and she turned at my shuffling just as I heaved the contents of the vial in her face. A loud hissing noise emanated and she fell to her knees with a hazy steam wafting from her head.
She coughed lightly for a second and it soon became a hard wretch. Not taking any chances, I cautiously walked around behind her and soon found the reason for her actions.
In sickened horror, I witnessed her cough up a small, bronze-colored thing that hit the ground with a gross plopping sound. The parasitic monstrosity was now writhing back and forth and emitted a tiny, squeal. Cybil’s now unconscious form thudded to the metal floor. The grotesque being slithered away by whipping its flagellic tail back and forth, but I thwarted its attempted escape.
With a satisfying squish, I brought my foot down hard on the creature and dug my heel in from side to side. The parasite let out a final dying scream as blood flowed freely from underneath my shoe. I walked over to Cybil and began shaking her to rouse her out of sleep.
“Cybil, wake up! C’mon, snap out of it!” I pleaded. After a moment, she began to come to with a soft moan. Her eyes fluttered, and she looked up at me with a dazed expression.
“Harry... what happened? Where…”
“It’s okay now, don’t worry. Try to relax. You were being controlled by some parasite. It made you attack me, but it’s okay now. I got it out of you.”
“Parasite? Out of me?”
“It’s probably best I don’t explain.
Are you okay.”
“I think so…what the hell happened?”
“I’m not exactly sure. What’s the last thing you remember?”
“I was…with Dahlia. I just remember
coming here with her, and then…the rest is fuzzy after that.”
“Don’t worry, it’ll come to you. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yes…I’m just tired, and kind of sore. Like I need a good, long rest.”
“Yeah, me too. As much as I’d like to rest, Cheryl is still in danger. I’m going to keep moving until I find her or die trying.”
“You really care for her, don’t you?”
“Of course. She may not be my biological daughter but she might as well be.”
“Yes. We found her on the side of the road…not too far from here actually…she made my wife and I very happy. When she was still alive...” My words trailed off, and Cybil’s face saddened at the thought.
“Oh, Harry. I’m so sorry...first your wife and now this….”
“It’s alright. It was hard but….Jodie and I couldn’t have kids. Her and Cheryl had time to really bond, and she died getting the chance to know what it’s like to be a mother. All that in mind, I’m becoming very convinced Cheryl has much more to do with this town than we know. I think Cheryl may have been born here. I recognized the area that we found her when I drove down here…and she looks so much like Alessa.”
“You don’t think they might be…sisters, do you?
“Its very possible.” Then, a strange sensation came. Gravity seemed to somehow shift and the light around us started to distort as if we were underwater.
“Hey, what’s happening?” I yelled in surprise. In mere moments, a figure appeared through a concentration of distorted light. Alessa’s dark blue dress shone like a beacon as she walked towards Cybil and I. She stopped when she came within about five feet.
“You…hah. I figured you'd show.” The girl then turned and walked away. “Alessa, wait! You know where Cheryl is, don’t you?” Alessa stopped in her tracks and turned, smiling in her devilish manner.
“She’s right under your nose and you can’t even see it!”
“Help us, please!”She raised her arm and pointed at me with a focused look. “What are you doing?” The space around Alessa changed, distorting all matter around her. I could then feel a charge in the air, the same feeling you get when a lightning storm is approaching. Suddenly the distorted light hurtled toward me and slammed into my chest. My body crumpled to the floor, and I couldn’t move. It was like all of the energy had been knocked out of me.
A strange aura came over me, and I felt a weight lessen in my pocket. I looked up, and the strange Flauros object was floating in mid-air. It began to emit a sky blue light, which encircled the object completely. The light then began to grow, and surrounded me in seconds.
“What…is this?” I said in wonder. The light shone even brighter, and it seemed to be affecting Alessa as she cringed away from the light. Soon she dropped to the ground. I felt my strength coming back immediately and stood up.
“Where's Cheryl? Give me back my daughter!” I said, looking down on the now motionless girl, ready to hurt her if necessary. If what Dahlia said was true, she wasn’t really human and I was done playing games. Cybil only stared in wonder, not able to believe the sight she was witnessing.
“We meet at last, Alessa. Troublesome, as usual. Some things never change,” a voice came in, and we turned to see Dahlia approach as she addressed Alessa in a spiteful tone.
“Dahlia! Where's Cheryl? Did you find her?” She didn’t even bat an eye.
“Alessa, this is the end of your little game.”
“…mama?” Alessa cried helplessly.
“You've been a ghastly little pest, haven't you, Alessa? I was careless, thinking you couldn't escape from our spell. But Mommy didn't know how much you'd grown. That's why I couldn't catch you all by myself. But what a pity, yes? Now you're half indebted to this man for his help.”
“Hey, what are you talking about!?” But Dahlia ignored me once again.
“My dear little girl. There is one thing left that I need you to do for me.” Dahlia’s face was stretched into a sly grin.
“No! Get away from me!” Alessa cried, beginning to stand up. Her eyes went wide in terror, and it dawned on me how cruel Dahlia must be. If her daughter had this much power, then what was Dahlia capable of? And what had she done to make her so afraid?
“You are a naughty girl, and will get your punishment in time. For now, everything is ready. Let's go home now.”
Suddenly, the Flauros begins to rise again, emitting that strange blue light. It grew and swelled, and light surrounded everyone.
“What's happening!?” I yelled, but no one could hear me over the indescribable noises the Flauros made. The light got brighter and brighter, and soon we had to shield our eyes from the lights’ intensity. It may have been my imagination, but for a second I thought I heard the various sounds of all the creatures I’d come across. It got louder and I was even more sure this noise was a cacophony of grunts, screams, moans, and God knows what else.
Then, everything went black, and I felt myself falling into nothingness….