A rustle of leaves and pained whine of an animal rumbled from the stretch of bushes on the lane.
“Don’t be a baby, Paige!”
I jumped as Lacy stepped over the rotted fence, her shiny new combat boots now splattered with mud.
“The Gingerbread House is just up ahead!” Damien said as he waded through knee-high grass.
My swallow was dry like sandpaper. How had I become the third wheel on this excursion?
Lacy glared with her steel-blue eyes, so I crossed into Enchanted Wonderland Theme Park with a sigh. Abandoned before we were born, this place had become a thing of ghost stories.
“Awesome!” he yelled. “Think I should take one of these home?”
An oversized Gumdrop was in his hands, a silly grin on his face. My jaw dropped at the sight of the children’s playhouse. Caved in roof, broken glass, door hung at an angle.
He squealed and dropped it. “Blah! Bugs!” His hands rubbed his jeans with a show of revulsion. Lacy giggled.
A hollow howl, neither human nor animal, sounded in the distance.
My stomach flipped. “Maybe we should –“
“Ohmygosh, don’t be a spoil-sport,” she said. She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Fine.” I dipped my head and followed them as they flirted. My worn chucks dragged just as much as my enthusiasm.
“Sweet! We found the lake!” he said, his brown curls tossed in the breeze.
Sure enough, there sat Wimbly the Whale – or Wimpy the Whale, as the kids at school called him. The ones who’d been brave enough to sneak in.
Now a faded shade of ocean blue, the poor statue sat motionless in the water, a large hole in one side, tail disconnected from his body. Off to the side bobbed a group of mud-brown swan paddleboats, their sparkly white sheen a thing of legend.
That same empty howl echoed closer. I jumped, a shiver down my spine.
A rusted car with no tires sat along the Antique Car ride. Bumper cars overgrown with weeds and mold scattered around the grass. A monstrous dragon, tumbled on his side, arms broken off. The graffitied castle, spires crashed inside. Teacups with chipped paint, a Pumpkin House with holes in the rind. Every part of the park was straight out of an eternal nightmare.
I glanced up. Where were Damien and Lacy? A guttural cry sounded from behind the dilapidated Tram Station, and I froze, heart in my throat.
“Boo!” The two screamed, as they jumped out.
“Lacy!” I yelled, my jaw set. My hands curled into fists as I searched for words.
“Oh come on, Paige. It was just a joke.” She rolled her eyes.
Movement behind her caught my eye, but the two continued to giggle.
“Did you bring Brian along? Is he hiding back there?”
“No, it’s just us.” Damien still laughed.
Brow tensed, I gulped. “Then what’s –“
An inhuman figure surged. Lacy screamed. Damien ran.
Ancient ghosts had awoken from their grave. My world went black.
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016