Day two of the settings challenge takes us to an abandoned amusement park.
Ride The Time Vortex
The car careened over the steel rails. It leaned precariously over the edge, shot back, whipped around, and through it all Kyla and Peter whooped and screamed. First day of the new coaster, a wild mouse called The Time Vortex, and they’d won tickets to be among the first riders. The tiny car shot down a hill and immediately back up. Kyla could briefly see the line snaking through a series of switchbacks, down the sidewalk, nearly out the park. She waved at them from overhead, gave an extra loud whoop, and then they were gone again as the car sped around a tight turn.
Their car rumbled into the debarkation platform and smacked hard into the car in front. Kyla rubbed her neck, worried about whiplash, and saw the line was gone. She heard none of the sounds of the park, the other rides, the screams, music. Only a the creak and groan of metal and the call of a bird overhead. Kyla pushed against the restraint bar and freed herself. Peter surveyed the park from the platform.
“What happened?” She asked.
“You were car three.” Kyla jumped at the new voice. Behind them stood a man in his forties. His wore a ragged beard and gift shop clothing, but there was something familiar about his face.
“You were first in line. Jerome, right?”
“I’ve been waiting for you. Come.” Jerome descended the platform stairs, and went through a “Staff Only” door. “It’s okay, there’s no one here to yell at us.” Kyla and Peter followed into the empty control room. Kyla drew back into Peter when she saw the place. Busted out television monitors, cobwebs hung from the ceiling, papers littering the floor, tramped down into a makeshift carpet.
Peter repeated Kyla’s question, “What happened?”
“I’ve been piecing it together as I can. Would you like some stew? I’m afraid it’s all I have.” Jerome indicated a pot on top of a low cooking fire built from construction beams. “No? The place closed down, I’m not sure when, but it was right after they opened this fucking ride. Six cars sent up, none came back to the station. Come see.”
Jerome led them out again, deeper into the park. The Wooden Behemoth, the first coaster Kyla and Peter rode together, was now a pile of lumber, kindling for Jerome’s fire. Bumper cars, pulled from their inclosures, sat idle on the wide walkways. The false stone exterior of the Lich King’s Blade crumbled away to exposed chicken wire and rebar. That was always their favorite part of the park. It was where Peter proposed. Kyla ventured further and further from his arms, exploring little niches, the remains of the place she loved so dearly, then came back to Peter each time it became too much. She saw the tear streaks on his face whenever she did.
“How did this happen so quickly?” she asked.
“It didn’t. I found some old papers. This place shut down. People tried to fix it up, but the shadow of the Time Vortex tragedy kept them at bay. Then everything else shut down. Bit by bit. I don’t know how far it went, I’ve only found papers going through 2034.”
Kyla dropped the character mascot head she’d picked up. “Twenty…?”
“I don’t know how they did it. They built a real time vortex. Straight to the end of mankind. Not sure what year this is now. 2050? 2100? Hard to say.”
They were near the edge of the park, Peter looked out over the empty parking lot. Grass grew in cracks in the asphalt, and entire portions of the parking surface peeled back around tree trunks. “So there’s nothing?”
“Don’t know about nothing,” Jerome said. “I just know I haven’t found anything.”
“But you were only a few seconds ahead of us on the ride,” Kyla said.
“Whatever they built, it doesn’t work right. Clearly, it was a roller coaster, not a fucking time machine. Even what they accidentally built sucked. Let’s get back, gonna be dark soon, and I don’t like the noises that come from out there during the night.” They crossed the park again, picking their way around broken walkways and collapsed rides. Kyla hadn’t looked at the Vortex earlier. It was a tangle of rails and ties, with only the loading platform looking untouched. Three cars sat there. Jerome’s, theirs, and…
“What happened to the people on car two?” Jerome didn’t answer her. “How long have you been here?”
“Haven’t kept count of the days. A year, maybe?” He lit the small fire, filling the control room with a flickering light, then poured himself a bowl of the stew. “Gets lonely. Nice to have someone else to talk to.”
Kyla walked around the control room, her shoes cracking against broken bits of glass. “Weren’t you on the ride with someone?”
Jerome slurped at the stew. “It’s gonna be awhile until car four shows up.”
“But what about car two?”
She saw a look in Peter’s eyes. She didn’t like that look. He asked, “what’s in the stew?”
“Did you want some? I’m afraid it’s gotten thin. Not much meat left.”
“Come on Kyla,” Peter grabbed her arm. She stared at the small stew pot, at the hunk of meat floating at the top.
“There’s nowhere to go,” Jerome said. “I’ve looked. Now come on. Enjoy some stew. Can’t have you wasting away. Not when it’s so long until car four will show up.”
Peter pulled Kyla to the door. He kicked it open, and they ran.