Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
I’ve always wondered who was behind the costumes. I was unfortunate enough to find out when I took my son on his first trip to Disney world.
Being a single Father isn’t easy, I work as hard as I can to provide for my child but I need to make enough free time to be there for him. It’s a rough balance that I and many others struggle to maintain. It’s so rare that I get a chance to spend the entire day with my boy or that I get a break from the stress, so when an opportunity arises I try my best to make it a reality.
So when my son David happened to come across a contest that boasted the chance to win a family package to Disney World, I set my sights on making it happen. His glee, while he filled in the necessary information, was almost enough to make my heart melt on its own. I wasn’t naive, things like that don’t happen to us. After losing her I learned that you can’t count on things to work out for you.
After David submitted his form I started to scour my work schedule for any opening I could take and still be there to provide. Earlier mornings got earlier and my workload increased tenfold but it would all be worth it, that’s what I thought anyway. The contest ran for a month and a half to give people time to send in their entries, and me time to save up for two tickets.
I stayed up on a night I had free and printed a mock-up letter stating that David had won the contest. Stuffed it inside a white envelope and placed it ever so gently inside out rusty mailbox, then all I had to do was wait for him to come home. When I tell you this boy’s whole world lit up like the fourth of July when he opened that letter… man I hope I never forget his smile. Thought he was going to damn near rip his cheek open grinning that hard.
We set a date, one where I could get the three days off work I needed. Even though the trip was still a few weeks away David was all packed and ready to go the night he received the letter. He told me all about how jealous his friends were, never even questioned why the “Family pack” only consisted of two tickets.
I can’t speak for all parents but Disney World was miserable.
It was far too hot and within a few minutes of walking around in the unrelenting sun, I could feel my sweat clinging to my clothing. David wanted to see every bit of the park that he could, he would run up to every mascot, I could tell he was getting flustered with the ones that couldn’t talk back. I could tell it was going to be a problem, I love the boy but he isn’t great at letting things go. I guess most children are like that.
The park was so loud, my feet started to hurt as we stood for unreal amounts of time in line for one ride at a time. I wasn’t there for me though, I was there to spend time with David and watch him immerse himself in all his favorite movies. Still though, despite me trying to explain the Mascot’s silence he continued to protest. I would have to walk up and pull him away from the silent animals.
One David reached forward and grabbed onto Goofy’s hand, the expression on David’s face dropped and he walked back to me. “His hand felt weird.” He said to me, I looked up at Goofy, I didn’t care. They could be as animated as they wanted but the unmoving face always gave me the creeps, the way they can just stare forever. We didn’t engage with many after David got creeped out and I couldn’t really get an explanation out of him.
We still had far too many things to see anyways, we couldn’t be stopping to talk to each and every make-believe character. David’s mood slowly returned as we feasted on a monstrously expensive meal and went on a few more rides. We sat together as the sun had long since passed the horizon and watched the fireworks leap into the air.
The brilliant spectacle of colors and booms filled the park and despite all my complaints, there with my boy it truly was the happiest place on earth. It would have been picture perfect if it wasn’t for all the mascots that stood around us. With every glow of the various colors, their features were outlined and then they’d fade into the dark, it was eerie and I was glad David hadn’t gotten scared.
Once the grand finale sent a seemingly endless stream of fireworks cascading into the sky filling it with bright sparkling lights, I notice, the mascots had left. Then the fireworks ceased and our only lights were the sparse place lamps around the park and after a bit more time of walking around it was time for us to leave.
David said he needed to use the bathroom so we started our search but the crowd was flowing like a river towards the exits. I was bumped on my shoulder and turned to face a man who gave me a quick apologetic glance, that was all it took for David’s hand to slip loose from mine. Looking back I noticed I was alone, my head frantically swiveled searching through the crowd.
My voice raised above the surrounding chatter as best as it could to call his name and when I didn’t hear a reply I started pushing against the tide. My exhausted body brushed up against an ocean of others as I tried to find a clearing, hoping the herd would thin out. My breath and my heart started to race in tandem as seconds felt like an eternity.
Getting near the back of the pack, I could hear a distant and timid “Hello” swimming under the conversations around me. David, it was David! I looked around like a mad man and once only a few people were surrounding me I could see under one of the lights, was none other than Micky Mouse. Of course, I thought. Of course, David would want to say goodbye to Micky if he saw him.
With the crowd dissipated I quickly jogged to the oversized rodent and noticed that David had a small collection of tears under his eyes. I promptly asked him what was wrong and he said that Micky won’t say goodbye to him. The last thing I wanted was for David’s final memory of the park to be a negative one, all he wanted was a goodbye.
I stood up straight and looked the mouse in his saucer-sized black pupils, then back at my son who was wiping his cheeks. Slowly I stepped forward and leaned in towards the mouse’s ear and did my best to keep a whisper my son could hear. “Hey, I know you’re not supposed to, even if it’s the worst impression, please just say goodbye.”
There was a moment of silence and when I didn’t receive a responds I started to pull away from Micky. “Daddy.” David chimed in and when I turned my head I noticed that Goofy had closed in on us. Looking back to Micky, in the dark when I stared into his pupils it seemed like the dark they were made of was swirling. I told David that we should just get going but he said he wanted a goodbye and grabbed Micky’s hand. Micky grabbed back.
The grip must have been strong as David immediately started to struggle against it and screamed for me. “What the hell,” I shouted towards the rat, I reached out to grab Micky’s arm and when my hands made contact I understood David’s previous statement.
Weird was the only word I could come up with too, whatever was under the costume was much skinnier than a person should be. The mass I grabbed onto felt like it was constantly shifting around under my hands. I wanted to leave the park but I also wanted to give my son fond memories of it, I didn’t want things to get physical.
I turned to look at David but instead of being able to focus on calming him down I noticed Goofy was walking closer too us. The illumination above us cast completely on the front of Goofy and the costume’s fabric was… writhing. Like hundreds of fingers were under the costume all pressing on the inside of it. That was enough, I’d just buy the kid some damn ice cream on the way home.
“Let go or I’m going to hit you,” I warned, I was tired but the thing under my hands didn’t feel like it had any muscle to speak of. Yet it continued its dead gaze into my eyes. David’s cries echoing in my head I reeled back and threw a punch towards the cartoon’s head. I thought it had come completely off but it was just hanging off its shoulder, held together by a thin black string. A string that was moving around to pull the head back into place.
Micky’s grip loosened and David was able to wriggle free, but me, I could feel two light brown arms wrapping around me. “Run to the exit David!” I exclaimed as I wrestled against the dog trying to hold me in place.
“That’s enough.” A sweet voice commanded and in response goofy pulled away from me. I adjusted my gaze to the female voice that saved me. “Sorry, night time is feeding time.” She spoke, I was beside myself as I looked into the face of Sleeping beauty. The actor stood under the lamp across the path with her hands clasped together. Micky and Goofy stepped away from us, Micky now with his head back on his shoulders stepped into the shadow.
Sleeping Beauty walked forwards with an unwavering smile. “We have to take care of our young, don’t we?” She spoke looking at David but clearly addressing me. “What’s your name, little guy?”
David looked at me and back to Sleeping Beauty. “David.” He whispered. Sleeping Beauty lowered herself to David’s eye level and gave him a nice, toothy smile.
“Goodbye David.” She spoke, soft and kind with one of her hands reaching out to hold David’s hand. “And goodnight” Raising back up to meet my stare she continued her almost inhuman smile. “You’re going to want to get that off of you.” She pointed at my arm. There was what I first thought to be a strand of hair resting on my bare arm.
What I thought was a hair then spread out and seemed to multiply until it was a scraggly clump with thin strands reaching around. I felt a small prick as a number of the strands seemed to try and wriggle their way into my pores. Quickly I raised my other hand and grabbed the mass, as I pried it from my arm the strands continued to brace into my skin. With enough effort, the tendrils were snapped loose and I chucked the mass to the ground before it could latch onto my hand.
The clump moved across the tiled road until it found Sleeping Beauty who bent over and let it rest in her gloved hands. She nodded and with that, I grabbed David’s hand once more and pulled him towards the exit. His tears were gone and all that was left was a satisfied grin. I offered one more look back as we got to the exit. They were all there, each mascot we had come across that day stood in the dark, watching us leave.
Our drive home was long, quick for David though, he passed out in the passenger’s seat clutching one of the souvenirs we had purchased. I tried to get the images out of my head on the ride home, each stray strand of hair in the car sending me into a mild panic until the wind pouring in from the windows whisked it away.
I think what was most disturbing to me, even as horrific as the fur mascots were, being held together by whatever the hell was inside there. Was Sleeping Beauty, her calm and collected attitude and most unnerving… when she flashed that toothy grin to my son. The light above us perfectly bounced off those pearly whites and the black strands that were poking out from the small gaps in her teeth. David has never brought it up, despite me asking if there was anything he wanted to talk about and he only reminisces about the positive experiences of that day. I’m not sure if we’ll ever go back but if we do-
We’ll be sure to leave before closing time.
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