09 Oct The Happiest Place on Earth
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"The Happiest Place on Earth"Written by J.G. Cross
Estimated reading time — 30 minutes
This was it: night one of my new job as the night watchman for Disneyland. Anywhere else, I’d be referred to as an ordinary security guard. Here, I was a cast member. Something about that label just oozed sophistication and privilege. It was now 12:00 AM. All the cleaners and maintenance workers had done their jobs and gone off to their own homes. My shift started now. I was, admittedly, pretty nervous.
“How many times was it again, kid?” my manager said as he walked me through the entrance.
“Hmm?” I asked nervously.
“How many times have you been to the park?” he clarified.
“Well… pretty much every year since I was 8, sir,” I answered.
“Then you’ll do perfectly,” he said, his tone confident. “Someone who knows the park from head to toe. Just what we need.”
“It’s an honor,” I said with a nod. “And it’ll be a nice paycheck for college.”
“As long as you’re not scared of spending long, lonely hours in a security office and surrounded by areas filled with deactivated animatronic characters, you’ll be fine,” the manager, whose name was Travis, jokingly said as if trying to scare me out of my new job.
What’s the worst that could happen? The answer to that question would only exist in my darkest nightmares and nowhere else. I was never the kind of guy to believe in ghosts, demons, or the supernatural in general. I’d be fine, just a little bored on occasion.
Travis led me to a gray door with a sign reading, “Authorized Personnel Only.” He handed me a key and said, “Do the honors.”
A couple of clockwise twists and the door’s locks seized to be a problem. A long and wide hallway shrouded by darkness greeted me upon my entrance. Travis urged me in, following closely behind and flicking up a light switch on the wall. The hallway lit up like a kid’s face upon meeting his favorite character for the first time, giving me a clear image of what was found at the end: a blue door reading “Security” with two large glass windows on either side of it. The hallway itself was covered by large boxes which I assumed contained equipment.
Travis walked ahead and led me to the door. He handed me another key and said, “Again, do the honors.”
I smirked at him and unlocked the door, making my way into the spacious office and analyzing the surroundings. It consisted of 4 large desks, each with a ton of screens on the tall wall above it. The first desk’s screens showed the main entrance as well as the park’s famous Main Street USA area. Cameras were placed in many different spots (including inside the shops and restaurants) to give me a full idea of what was going on. The screens on the second desk showed a larger amount of security cameras placed all over the park within Adventureland, Discoveryland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, and Mickey’s Toontown. The photo spots, the shops, the restaurants… every nook and cranny in these areas were now under my surveillance. The third and final desk’s cameras were placed… inside the rides. Yeah. Each of them showed me the darkened, lifeless nighttime insides of these beloved attractions. All of a sudden, Splash Mountain was no longer a jolly ride through Br-er Rabbit’s world. It was a dark cave of chilling silence filled with dead-eyed animatronic characters staring in different directions. The first areas in Pirates of the Caribbean went from dark, eerie, skeleton-infested caves to… dark, eerie, skeleton-infested caves. Idiot.
“What do you think?” Travis asked, roughly patting my back. “Beautiful isn’t it?”
I nodded silently before saying, “It’s… impressive.”
“Your new office,” he said. “Never thought you’d wind up here when you were twisting through Space Mountain as a kid, right?”
“No one would,” I jokingly scoffed, getting a drink from a sizable water cooler right next to the third desk. I took a sip and switched on the oscillating desk fan.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Travis said as my eyes went back to the third set of screens. “Don’t even try it.”
I stared at him, confused.
“I know nostalgia can be a force to be reckoned with,” he said. “But don’t go trying to switch on the rides and take them for a solo drive.” He chuckled, letting me know he was just kidding.
I laughed along and said, “I’d get fired on the spot. I know my place.” I sat down on the rotating desk chair and said, “I’m not leaving this office until you get back in the morning.”
“No need to go overboard,” Travis said. “ You can leave the office for a bathroom break.”
“Right,” I said with a nod.
Travis stared at the cameras for a second and said. “Any questions or you all set for now?”
“All set,” I confidently said, feeling surprisingly excited for the job.
“Okay,” Travis said with a proud nod. He took a card out of his pocket and put it on the desk beside me. “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call, especially in the case of an emergency, though I seriously doubt it’ll ever come to that.”
I took the card and put it in my pocket. “I will. Thanks.”
“Good luck, kid,” he said, opening the office door. “ He looked back and added, “Check those cameras, be wary of anything, and… try not to doze off.”
Not a chance. I spent all afternoon sleeping soundly in my apartment for a reason.
The door creaked… then clicked. Travis was gone, and I was now all alone at Disney. Maybe I should give the rides a go… NAH!
I’d never do something like that, even if the temptation was brutal. What can I say? I was broke. I needed the money for college. Messing with the rides would be a one-way ticket back to my college dorm empty-handed. So I sat down on my little desk chair… waiting… and waiting… and keeping my eyes on those cameras.
For the most part, nothing happened. The only thing I could see? Slightly grainy footage of the park’s deserted whereabouts. The only thing I could hear? The low hum of the desk fan as its cool breeze kept me from breaking a sweat. Truth be told, if I shut off that fan things would get ugly for me fast. I was never the kind of guy to enjoy total (and I mean TOTAL) silence. It’s the kind of thing that would allow my mind to play cruel tricks on me.
With that in mind, I turned up the fan from 1 to 3 and pulled out my phone to check my music library. I swiped my finger across the screen back and forth repeatedly, trying to decide on what to listen to. Ryan Farish was the answer to that question. His uplifting tracks would surely keep the mood from going straight into the realm of the unsettling. I put the phone on full blast, set it down on the table, and turned my attention to the cameras.
I’d be lying if I said the sight wasn’t strangely unsettling in its own way. It’s not that anything out of place was going on; absolutely nothing was, actually. But that was just it… nothing was happening. The park was deserted. In here, Ryan Farish’s tracks were keeping the mood upbeat and lively. Out there, the park itself… nothing. As I sat there, the park’s streets were silent and dark, save for a few lights scattered in different places. The night vision cameras gave me the full picture of what was going on in all areas of the park, though my attention was mostly saved for the main gates. My eyes wandered to other cameras as well, but the gates were the primary focus.
The interiors of the attractions on the other hand…
Yeah, I tried to keep my eyes of them most of the time. It was in my job description to check those too, but something just felt… off. Again, nothing was happening. I could only thank my over-active imagination for what I felt whenever my eyes moved over those cameras. Just seeing all the animatronic characters like this, in total darkness and silence with their dead eyes staring off into the distance and their mouths in unnatural positions, sent chills down my spine. Call me childish if you want, but I just really wasn’t used to seeing them like this. It was the polar opposite of what you’d get in the daytime while actually giving these attractions a go.
“You’ve been watching too many horror movies, man,” I told myself with a wry chuckle. “Remember, it’s all part of the job.”
I sat up from my desk to stretch my legs. It was now 1:10 am. One hour of doing nothing but sitting and staring at cameras was already giving me some physical discomfort. I did a few calisthenics and jogged in place for a moment, stopping only to get a couple of drinks of water from the cooler… which added up to a total of 3 drinks taken since I got here.
It was about time for a quick bathroom break.
I took one last look at all the cameras (including the ride interiors) before fetching my key from the desk. I was taken aback as soon as I unlocked the second door, my eyes and senses taking in the sight and feel of the abandoned park. Just total silence and darkness. The only illumination in the immediate area came from the small lights marking the, thankfully, nearby bathroom. I calmly walked over, ignoring the feel of the dead park, and did my business.
I washed my hands and rinsed my face, taking a brief look at myself in the mirror before heading for the door. I was just going past the exit when the sharp sound of something bursting and shattering startled me. I looked up through the darkness at the bathroom’s outer lights… or at least what was left of them. Faint sparks of electricity emanated from the sockets, casting an even fainter glow on the space around it.
“Damn it,” I mumbled, looking down at the glass shards on the floor. “Better get rid of these…”
But not with my hands. There was always the risk of accidentally cutting myself with the sharp edges, but the way the bulbs exploded from the apparent overcharge… yeah, I could imagine how hot the pieces could be. Thankfully, there was a broom and basket in my office ready for the job. I calmly walked over to the nearby office, my ears taking in the abundance of silence, and opened the gray door to the hallway. Except it didn’t open. Confused, I jiggled the door handle only for it to stall each time and emanate a clicking sound.
It locked itself…?
As strange as it was, I didn’t see it as a cause for alarm. Maybe they designed the door to automatically lock itself when closed. It did sound like a sensible security measure to keep any unwanted guests out of the restricted area. I nonchalantly shrugged and pulled out the key to unlock it. No trouble there. The blue office door, to my surprise, remained unlocked. I grabbed the broom, along with the trash basket, and headed back to the restrooms for a quick sweep-up.
“You’d make a hell of a janitor,” I muttered, alleviating the lonely feeling of being here all by myself.
I brushed the shards into the basket and took it back to the security office, unlocking the hallway door again and locking it behind me. The office door, which I had left open, was now shut. However, I didn’t give it much thought. I just wanted to take the basket back in, take a seat in front of the cameras, turn up my music, and unwind. For some reason, the two trips outside the office made me uneasy. It was probably my overactive imagination acting up again, but I could feel… something. As if someone was watching me. Then again, I always felt that. As a kid, as a teenager, and now as a young adult; I always had a certain fear of the dark… or, more accurately, a fear of being left alone in it. I learned to control it as life went on, but never truly got rid of it.
I set the broom and basket down against the wall and jiggled the door handle… only to find it was now locked too. What?
Maybe the same security measure for the hallway door was also applied to this one? If so, how come it was unlocked the first time I came back? Maybe the mechanism just malfunctioned the first time?
Well, whatever it was, I didn’t give it much thought. I used the key and went in with a clear mind. Setting down the broom and trash basket, I went for the chair, reclining on it a bit and massaging my temples before laying eyes on the cameras. Scrolling through each of them for a short period of time, I really didn’t see anything happening. Everything seemed to be in order. Good.
I switched my music back on and bopped my head to the beat. A few minutes of doing so while checking the cameras gave me the chance to clear my head. And then… silence. The music stopped. The phone’s screen went black. My mind shot back into the dark realm of suspicion. What the hell…?
I tried turning the phone back on. Nothing. I pulled the charger out of the bag I’d brought with me and plugged it in. Still nothing. Not even the “Low Battery” icon would show on the screen. The phone was completely dead… Great. I’d never heard of something like this happening, but seeing as the phone was about 4 years old, it really didn’t have to come off as a shock to me. Probably had a fatal hardware error from age or something…
Whatever it was, the result wasn’t pretty: my office being plunged headfirst back into total silence. “Great.” Well… hopefully, I could get the phone repaired somehow. For now, though, I’d have to contend with boredom. Moving along to the music was the only thing keeping me entertained. It kept my nerves in check too. As the minutes passed, boredom and nerves created an unholy mix within me. With the exception of the fan’s low sound, the office was silent enough to hear a pin drop.
And then… a knock on a door. Yes… the gray hallway door. It was a single, jarring knock breaking the silence in the worst way possible. I tensed up in my chair, not daring to look behind me. I kept my eyes on the cameras instead, mainly the ones in Main Street USA and the one right outside the main security door.
There was no one. Not even the slightest sign of a person. Everything seemed normal…
Heart starting to race, I quickly turned in my chair to face the doors. That second knock? It sounded closer… as in, unlike the first, it came from the door to my office. I stood up from my chair and just remained still for a moment, cautiously staring at the door and contemplating whether to check it or not. Eventually, I decided to take that step forward. I carefully opened the door and stepped out, looking around in the hallway. Everything looked perfectly normal. There were no signs of activity whatsoever. Even the boxes were in the exact same places and positions as when I first arrived.
Maybe it was just my imagination… I seriously need to calm down.
With that thought, I shrugged and went for the door back into my office… when a startlingly loud thud coming from outside the hallway door caught my attention. A second bang on the door made me nearly jump out of my skin. It left me virtually paralyzed, standing there with my eyes locked on the door. What’s going on…?
This time I didn’t remain as calm. I ran back into the office and grabbed a broomstick. I removed the actual broom from the tip and took the stick alone with me. I was going out. Cautiously… slowly but surely, I was going out. Whatever it was, I was going to get to the bottom of it. The cameras close to the office showed me nothing, but they could probably be glitching. I took a deep breath and slowly approached the door with the broomstick in hand. A chillingly faint scraping noise came from it just as I was about to lay a hand on the handle. It stopped me dead in my tracks for a second, my mind trying its best to make sense of it all.
I slowly opened the door and peeked outside.
“Hello?” I said, hearing only silence in reply. Of course, even if there was an intruder the last thing he’d do would be to answer the security guard’s calls. I looked around some more and shrugged, my eyes catching nothing. I chuckled nervously and said, “I really am going crazy.”
I rolled my eyes at myself and walked back to the office, unlocking both doors and once again sitting in front of the cameras. I positioned the fan so its wind would go straight to my face and exhaled, relieving stress. As much as I wanted to believe my mind was to blame… deep down, I couldn’t. I heard the knocks. I didn’t imagine them. I heard them. Whether it was some obscure auditory phenomenon I didn’t know about… or something else entirely… I could tell it wasn’t my imagination.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sudden ring tone coming from… my dead phone. I stared down at it, bewildered, and noticed the words “Unknown Caller” flashing on the screen. I reluctantly picked it up and waited a few uneasy seconds before answering. “Talk to me.”
“Hello?!” my manager’s voice came blaring through the speaker, its tone distressingly frantic. “Is everything all right?”
I didn’t know how to answer him; I was momentarily frozen by his tone.
“Never mind,” Travis breathlessly said. “You need to leave the park now!”
“Why what’s going o…?”
“Just do it!” he yelled, forcing me to bite my tongue. “I’ll explain later. Right now, there’s no ti…”
“Travis?” I nervously said, my voice barely going above a whisper. “What’s wrong?”
A blood-curdling mess of terrified, painful screams suddenly pierced the silence. I was helpless, having no other choice but to keep the phone pressed against my ear and invite hyperventilation in.
“Travis!” I yelled.
And then… silence.
“Travis…?” I softly said, terrified beyond description. Slow, thumping footsteps broke through the silence, the sound growing nearer and nearer to the phone’s speaker by the second. The closer the sounds approached, the more unnerved I became. It almost sounded like they were coming from the security office. From… behind me…
The footsteps stopped to give way to raspy, labored breathing coming directly from the phone.
“S… s… see… you… soooon…” the voice quiveringly said in a way so disturbingly unnatural it chilled me to the core.
Petrified with fear, my entire body seized up. My hand lost its grip on the phone, letting it drop to the floor. I started shaking uncontrollably and backed up against the wall, shutting my eyes and hoping I would wake up from the nightmare. Opening them only let me know I was still in the office. This was no nightmare. I had really just heard Travis being murdered through the phone… and now his killer was coming for me. But… what did he want? What did any of this have to do with me? Better yet, how did he know of my whereabouts?
A loud bang on the hallway door snapped me out of my thoughts yet again, my scream emanating through the office. I stood up and fixed my eyes on the door, waiting to see what would happen if anything did.
Suddenly, the lights went out. The security cameras switched off. Both the office and the hallway became caves. A thick blanket of darkness blinded me and pushed me over the edge of unmitigated terror. I scrambled to find the light switch on the wall to no avail. My fingers could only scratch the walls in a desperate, fruitless search. My phone was the other option. Its flashlight would light up the room like a night club. I pulled it out of my pocket and started pressing buttons… only to find it was dead once again.
“Come on, come on!” I growled in fearful desperation. “Work, you piece of…”
What was that…?
If my ears weren’t deceiving me, I had just heard the door to my office slowly opening by itself. The darkness wouldn’t allow me to get even the slightest look of what was going on… a handicap which allowed my mind to do its worst. The creaking sound slowed to a crawl before being succeeded by the door’s closing click. Creeping footsteps echoed through the darkness, inching closer to me by the second.
My heart raced in my chest. The sweat dripped from my forehead. My entire body quaked with fear. As the footsteps drew closer, I was entirely helpless. I could do nothing but keep myself pressed against the wall and await the result.
Except there was none.
The footsteps stopped. Whether the source was standing right in front of me or halfway across the room was unknown to me. The question was answered when… the lights switched back on. They were tweaking out and flickering, but they were back on. I couldn’t complain, except… I was all alone in the room. Not even a shadow in sight other than mine. I took a deep breath, my hand wiping across my forehead to take care of the sweat, and looked back at the cameras. Unlike the lights, they remained dead and displayed nothing other than my reflection. I tapped one of them out of curiosity… only for the reflection to show something (or someone) else occupying my working space. A shadowy figure with indistinct features stood right behind me, its head slowly tilting to one side. I darted back from the screen and turned in place. Nothing.
The lights went out once again, forcing me to groan in equal parts of frustration and fear. The sound of the office door slamming shut pushed me back against the wall in fearful submission. It was slammed open, the loud thud accompanied by the shattering of the glass windows on either side of it. The door to the hallway, supposedly “locked” by a safety mechanism, was harshly opened as well.
Whatever I was dealing with, it had just taken care of the only things separating me from… it.
I didn’t want to leave the office. No one would. Nevertheless, I knew I had to do it and find a good hiding spot. Escaping the park would be impossible with the gates locked. “It” knew I was here. “It” was challenging me. I could almost feel it. I was unsure of this thing’s purpose. But the one thing I was sure of? “It” wasn’t human. And it wanted to either drive me insane… or kill me.
“You can do this…” I said in a vain attempt to console myself. “You’re g… you’re gonna get through this…”
I repeated those words in my mind and proceeded to slowly walk through the darkened hallway toward the main door. The lights above me flickered in an erratic pattern with every step I took, causing me to slow down from sheer nervousness. Once again, I had that strange feeling: eyes… eyes on me. I could feel something watching my every move. I slowly looked over my shoulder, only to reassure myself there was nothing there, and continued my cautious walk down the seemingly never-ending hallway. Every step felt like a mile as my mind was flooded with thoughts about the unknown force putting me through all this. The same “thing” that apparently took Travis’s life.
What is it?
What does it want with me?
Why bring Travis into it?
Is there some history to all of this?
Four questions, zero answers, but it didn’t matter to me now. The only thing that mattered was finding a good place to hide. Was I being tormented by a paranormal force? The kind I never believed in? Definitely. I had no doubts whatsoever. But I did doubt it was an all-knowing force capable of seeking me out no matter where I hid.
My feet ceased to move forward upon reaching the opened hallway door. One more step was all I needed, but the fear was simply too much. The idea of leaving the office, fully exposing myself to this entity, wasn’t exactly pleasant.
You’re a sitting duck here. Move!
Where am I supposed to go? Somewhere this thing can’t find me? It’s probably watching me already…
Don’t hide! Run for the main gates.
That would be a good idea… if they weren’t locked.
You’ll figure it out. Travis said to leave the park. Hiding won’t work. You know it’ll find you.
It’ll find me… no matter where I hide…
My instincts were telling me to run and hide, but my mind was yelling “Get out of the park!” There had to be some way to escape…
I slowly cleared the open door, my eyes looking to both sides to make sure nothing was waiting for me.
I looked back to find that the main door had roughly shut itself, the loud noise accompanied by the low clicks of the locks. A low exhale channeled my stress as I slowly walked away from the door, keeping my eyes on it for a moment, before letting my fear get the better of me and sprinting off straight for the main gates.
“Don’t look back, don’t look b…”
My body hit something, stopping me dead in my tracks. Except… there was nothing. I stared in the direction of whatever blocked my escape, my eyes catching nothing. My senses, however, told an entirely different story. I felt the eyes on me once again. Those cold, piercing eyes… inhuman.
“Y… you’re not going… anywhere…” the same unnaturally guttural voice from the phone said after a brief moment of silence. “You’re staying right here… with us… all.. of us…”
“If I were you… I would run…” the voice menacingly seethed. “I’ve brought some… friends… to meet you…”
The voice faded away on the last word, leaving my now unattended attention free to drift over to a nearby thicket of tall decorative bushes… which began to madly rustle. A vicious gurgling sound came from them as the rustling intensified.
“Oh, my God…” I nervously mumbled.
A long, thin, almost skeletal arm with disgustingly pinkish, raw-looking flesh stretched out from the foliage, trembling grotesquely. The clawed hand with unnaturally long, bony fingers scratched the ground it reached for. My instincts once again urged me to run, but the sight of this… this “thing” froze me in place. Whether it was from fear, amazement, or diabolical concoction of the two, I simply couldn’t move. My body quaked as the rest of the creature surfaced from the hiding spot. The darkness wouldn’t let me make out the specific details of its appearance, but it did give me a disturbing enough idea of what I was dealing with. It was a tall humanoid figure with a body lanky to the point of deformity. Its bony shoulders stretched up to the midway point of its neck. Its legs seemed like they could snap at any moment. Its chest was sunken in, the bones almost emerging from the thin layer of flesh. How this being was even able to stand and walk was beyond my comprehension, but it was doing just that. Much to my terror, its movements were as hideously otherworldly as could be: erratic, twitchy, stiff shambling that looked anything but human.
Then, in a split-second, its neck twisted toward me, giving me a clear view of its wretched face. The features were deformed and rotten. The eye sockets lacked the eyes; two chillingly dark voids bereft of any emotion. The mouth was stretched out to the point where the skin was tearing at either side. Black bile pooled from its open mouth. It shambled towards me slowly for a moment, making me finally snap out of the spell and walk backwards a bit. It stayed like that for a few seconds: me walking backwards while cautiously keeping my eyes on the creature’s steady approach. I started walking faster, facing away and looking back every few seconds to make sure it wasn’t closing in.
Its footsteps grew closer. The sounds became rapid. I looked back in a flash to see the being closing in on me. It was no longer shambling. It wasn’t even walking at a brisk pace. It was sprinting, with its erratic and unnatural movements more disconcerting than ever. My heart raced. My palms sweat. My legs did their work. I raced away from the being in a terrified sprint of my own.
The park was a canvas covered in black paint. The few lights Travis had left on in select spots had all been switched off. Decorative buildings, shops, and restaurants were now caverns. I did have a flashlight with me, but right now, in my mad dash away from the being, the last thing on my mind was to use it. My mind was singularly focused on getting away… which was proving to be more difficult a task than previously thought.
For such a weak-looking creature, it could really keep pace. No matter how fast my movement was, it managed to stay right behind me.
I ran down Main Street USA, my path a direct beeline to Cinderella castle. From there, I planned to make a sharp left turn straight into Adventureland. My mind was already cooking up a great escape plan. Adventureland was home to the famous Jungle Cruise attraction. If I could get out of sight for just one second, I would have a good chance to dive into the water and hide under the queue area. It would be perfect, as long as the creature didn’t spot me making my escape.
The stakes were high; my life was on the line. It would be tiring, but I knew I had to be faster. I put everything I had into it. Every last ounce of energy in me went straight to my legs. I ran at speeds I had never reached before in my life, the gap between me and the creature increasing with every passing second. Sadly… I wasn’t in the best shape of my life. Not overweight, but definitely not in the kind of shape desirable for a life or death situation. Nevertheless, I was doing exactly what needed to be done.
The creature screeched savagely as I darted out of sight into Adventureland. I picked up the pace as its distant footsteps seemed to be coming closer at an even faster rate.
Catching sight of the entrance to the Jungle Cruise made me speed up even more. It was the best, and probably only, chance of staying alive. I ran inside, darted through the queue as fast as I could, and jumped into the water without a second thought. I swam underneath the queue line as planned and grabbed on to one of the large wooden poles holding the attraction’s building up over the water. Now… waiting. I closed my eyes and held my breath, my ears perceiving the creature’s frenzied footsteps approaching the ride building.
I tensely looked up when the footsteps started to come from directly above me. The creature had arrived. I could hear it lowly hissing and sniffing. It knew I was here. It just didn’t know where exactly and I was going to keep it that way. The game was cat and mouse. Under no circumstances was I going to let this thing catch me…
The footsteps went further away until the creature was standing at the very edge of the loading docks. My eyes caught a chilling glimpse of its bone-like fingers stretching down to swat at the water in an apparent search for its prey. The hand movements got more impatient, signaling its owner’s frustration.
Just leave already…
Whether the creature had the ability to read thoughts was a question I couldn’t answer. Its actions did raise suspicion on that matter though. Both of its hands grabbed on to the loading dock’s edge and its shadow let me know just what it was about to do: take a peek under the queue area straight into my hiding spot.
Without even thinking, I took a deep, but silent, breath and allowed myself to drift under the waterline. My figure was engulfed by the darkness of the deep water and remained there… motionless. I made sure of it. I knew so much as the slightest movement could give me away and put the creature on the attack once more. There was one problem, however…
I was quickly running out of breath.
My head was starting to spin. My eyes were going backwards into my skull. My lungs cried out for air. These things persisted to the point where I simply couldn’t bear with it any longer. I let my head surface and gasped for air, quickly looking in front of me as soon as my lungs were satisfied. Much to my repressed joy, the creature was gone. I could still hear its movements, but they were getting distant instead of approaching. It didn’t appear to be in the queue building any more from what I could hear. From the sound of it, it seemed to be heading further into Adventureland in direction of New Orleans Square. If that was the case then I’d have the perfect chance to get out of the water, quietly sneak in the opposite direction, and find a good hiding place while the creature searched for me elsewhere.
Okay… you can do this. So far so good.
My inner voice was my only friend and greatest encourager. I had no choice but to heed its words, slowly swimming out from under the queue building and grabbing on to the wooden ledge of the loading dock. I cautiously raised my head a bit to take a steady peek of my surroundings.
No visual sign of the creature. I could still hear the noises it made (hissing, growling, grunting) in the distance, but no sign of it actually being close to my position. It was the perfect opportunity to bolt. I lifted myself up to the dock, placing my chest on it, and raised one of my legs as well. I was about to lift up my other leg, but… I couldn’t.
Something grabbed my foot and gave me a jolting tug back, almost forcing me to let go of the ledge. Panic set in immediately. The leg I’d already raised up to the ledge fell back into the water as I madly flailed in place, trying to get loose of whatever had seized me. I kicked the water with my free leg. Nothing happened. I squirmed and shook as manically as I could. Nothing.
Suddenly, the force pulled on my leg with full strength. My hands painfully scraped the wood as I was violently pulled back into the water with a loud splash. I swam back to the surface and gasped for air before trying to grab hold of the ledge again. Unfortunately for me, this unidentified entity wasn’t finished with me. I was pulled under the waterline once again, both my legs being held together and making it impossible for me to escape. Panic intensifying, I shut my eyes and held my breath. Whatever this new entity was, I didn’t want to lay eyes on it.
Except… I had no choice. Once my head was above the waterline again, I felt two pairs of fingers set themselves on both my eyes… while my legs remained held in place.
There’s two of them?!
The fingers on my eyelids pushed in opposite directions, forcing the eyes open… to the sight of the deformed, skeletal creature shambling toward the edge of the dock. Apparently, the sounds of commotion had drawn it back to my position and now… my cover was blown.
The unexpected, and unwelcome, sight forced a piercing shriek of pure, unadulterated terror out of me. I began wildly thrashing around like a patient at a mental asylum, fearful desperation now risen to an unbearable degree. This time, it actually worked. I felt my legs go loose and the fingers removed from my pressured eyelids. Unfortunately… it was too late. Before I knew it, the bony creature ran and pounced into the water with its arms stretched out towards me and the claws seemingly aimed at my neck.
In a gut response, I speedily dove under the water and miraculously avoided the creature’s lunge. It splashed down a few feet behind me and began thrashing around to the symphony of its own frenzied grunts and hisses. I didn’t even look back. I couldn’t; it would be a waste of the few precious seconds I had to escape with my life. I swam away. I swam as fast as I possibly could and latched on to the loading dock’s edge for the second time. Raising both legs to the dock at record speed, I got out just in time to avoid the creature’s second grab at me. Its claws missed my leg by that much; I actually felt the wind from its swipe. As the creature made quick, spastic movements to get up to my level, I wasted no time in making a run for dear life. I cleared the queue and was out of Adventureland before I even knew it.
The creature’s frustrated, ear-piercing screams became more distant as I ran into Discoveryland and dove into a thick thicket of bushes, catching my breath from the sprint and giving myself a chance to regain my energy for what would be a full night of running and hiding… if I didn’t get… killed… that is…
The thought alone brought me closer to breaking down into a quivering pile of anxiety-stricken uselessness. I hadn’t lived a full life. Not even close. I didn’t want to die now… especially not like this. All alone… terrified… with no one to turn to… pursued by a threat I didn’t understand… mercilessly slaughtered by demonic beings.
You can do this…. you’re going to make it… don’t give up…
You aren’t going to die like this…
As much as I wanted to believe my inner voice’s motivational words, it was too tough a task. I wanted nothing more than to make it out of this alive and never return, but what I had just been through made me realize just how hard that was going to be. I was under constant surveillance by these… things. The bony demon was visible and could be avoided if I sharpened my senses to the necessary degree. But invisible entities that seized me in the water? I had a sick feeling in my stomach telling me there were others like them all throughout the park.
They were probably watching me right now as I lay hidden in the thick brush…
The skeletal demon was back, madly shambling around close to my position. I backed up against the wall, not daring to create a crack in the bush for a quick peek. This time, it wasn’t making any sounds other than footsteps. It was entirely silent, which made its presence all the more unnerving. Once the footsteps were in close proximity, passing by directly in front of the thicket I hid in, I decided to take no chances. I held my breath, the sound of my breathing the only noise I was producing.
Eventually, the sounds of its feet subsided, becoming fainter as they seemed to head back in the direction of Adventureland. Curiosity getting the better of me, I decided to take a quick look through the bush. I slowly stretched out both hands and silently pushed open a clearing on the foliage.
Nobody. Not a sign of life nearby. I couldn’t even hear the creature’s footsteps anymore. Until…
The bushes right next to me rustled, catching my attention and causing me to run out in a dash. A low giggle came from them as well, something which was anything but charming. And then… the footsteps again.
I quickly turned to the direction the sound came from and saw… something. It wasn’t the skeletal demon. It was something else: a man. Or at least it looked like a man.. except it had no eye sockets, hair, clothes, or facial features in general… with the exception of a bloody mouth with the lips and the skin around it nothing more than a shredded mess exposing the jagged teeth and rotten gums. This new entity occupied the space right in front of the Discoveryland entrance. It just stood there… silently. Staring me down as if challenging me.
Footsteps. Rapid footsteps coming from behind me.
I turned in place and saw… her. A woman in a white dress sprinting straight for me. Except this was no ordinary woman. It was one of… them. Her skin was gray and wrinkled. Her eyes were pupil-less. Just two white, emotionless orbs held in place by the sockets. There were no eyebrows above them. Her teeth? There weren’t any. Her mouth was a stiff wide grin, showing off the ghastly toothless wasteland that was the inside.
Not more than a couple of seconds passed before I was running for my life yet again. Thankfully, this female entity wasn’t too fast. I found it easy to outrun her. Unfortunately…
The eyeless, silent entity appeared in front of me. Just like that, out of thin air. I looked back to make sure I’d lost the woman and found myself staring the eyeless creature in the face. It grabbed on to me and threw me to the ground, a low hiss escaping through its jagged teeth. The impact with the pavement scraped my arm, drawing a small amount of blood. I scrambled to get away and found myself leaving the creature to eat my dust. My heart pounding my chest cavity with full force, I ran into Fantasyland and looked behind me. The eyeless demon was gone, but the rapidly approaching footsteps of the woman let me know I was still in trouble.
Unfortunately for me, there were no bushes nearby. I couldn’t just jump into a thicket this time around. I would have to go into one of the attractions. Even more unfortunate… the closest one right now… as in right beside me… was “It’s a Small World.”
No choice… she’s getting closer…
I took a deep breath, gathering up the courage, and sprinted over the bridge straight into the entrance. Wasting no precious time, I ran down the stairs and went right into the darkened attraction on foot.
My back was placed against a wall inside the attraction, my ears paying careful attention to the female demon’s sounds. I could hear her grunting and running around out there. If she was searching for me, she was out of luck. Under no circumstances would I leave my hiding spot.
I crouch-walked deeper into the attraction, paying close attention to my surroundings. My deeply unsettling surroundings. The overwhelming silence was an entity on its own. The Small World dolls almost seemed to surround me and gaze at every step I took. Their lifeless eyes stared off in aimless directions. Some had their mouths wide open as if screaming in terror.
I knew I was doing just that deep down inside.
After a few minutes of sneaking through the attraction, I decided to take a little rest. I sat down against a wall and shut my eyes momentarily.
How will I make it through this? I’ve been attacked by 5 of these things already. How many more could there possibly be? If I’m lucky, the answer is “none.” But judging from my situation, I’d say I’m not very lucky. And if I’m not… I probably won’t make it to sunrise. Not alive and well. How did I get myself into this mess? Why did it have to be me? What did I do to des…
♪ It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears… ♪
♪ It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears. There’s so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world, after all… ♪
The animatronics began to move on their own. The attraction remained in total darkness, but the music began to play.
♪ It’s a small world, after all… ♪
The voices were a cacophony of madness. Some were normal. Some were in reverse. Others sounded distorted beyond belief. The one thing they had in common: they were all slowed down to ominous effect. I looked around to see… all the animatronic dolls had turned their heads and fixed their dead eyes on me.
“It’s a small world after all,” they sang as a demonic cackling sound joined the unholy combination and looped endlessly.
The terror within pushed me to run. I suspected they couldn’t hurt me, but the sound would surely attract the physically visible demons hunting me down. I ran along the sides of the attraction’s river… when something grabbed my arm and twisted it, dropping me to the ground. I was shoved into the water and pushed in face-first. They were already here…
I scrambled to regain my footing and got out of the river only to find myself face to face with a group of cackling dolls staring directly into my eyes as the others pressed on with their warped, depraved singing.
I trembled in place. My legs gave out for a moment. I was now on my knees. I looked around me as the maddeningly distorted sounds incessantly pierced my eardrums and pushed me to the brink of insanity. The Small World I knew from my childhood was a calm boat ride through a fantasy world brimming with saccharine sentimentality. This Small World was instead a horrifying exercise in frightening flustering madness.
“Stop it!!” I painfully screamed, my mind breaking “Stop it!!!”
No matter where I ran or where I looked, I felt stalked. Each and every one of these animatronics was now under the control of evil spirits keeping watchful eyes on me without a second wasted. The thought alone was causing my mind to stop working properly. I became increasingly disoriented by the insanity surrounding me.
However, my eye-sight remained perfectly functional. And what I saw made things even worse. On the other end of the room were the skeletal demon and the female both moving around and searching the area. My defensive instincts kicked in and I was hard on my heels. I looked around and saw the door to a supply closet just out of sight, behind a large pillar covered with those wretched cackling dolls. I ran for the door and was pleasantly surprised to find it was open.
“Y-y-you’re gonna make it,” I said to myself, shakily chuckling. “T-t- they’re not going to find you h-here…”
Except they already had…
A single hand grabbed my shoulder, getting a horrified scream out of me and causing me to start blindly swatting around.
“No!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. “Leave me alone!!”
The hand joined another as both grabbed my arms, turned me around, clutched the back of my head, and smashed me face-first against the wall. My vision blurred, I looked up as the single light bulb on the room’s roof lit up… showing me who had just assaulted me: the female demon. How she got in the room was a question I couldn’t answer. She looked over me, her toothless grin on full display, and stomped her foot down on my face. From there… silence.
Chaotic cackling. Cartoony voices. Foreboding music. Running water.
All these sounds joined together within my ears as I slowly came out of unconsciousness to find myself… in a log running down a river with cartoon animal animatronics all around me.
“W-what?” I muttered before realizing I had been locked down in a log on the darkened Splash Mountain. “How?”
How I got to be in this position was the least of my worries now. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well. A feeling that was hastily confirmed as soon as I saw what awaited me at the top of the climb for the ride’s final drop. A slobbering hunch-backed creature stood on the right side of the lift hill’s top, incoherently mumbling to itself while moving around in an unnatural manner and menacingly staring down at me.
My mind was no longer working correctly at this point. All I wanted was to get out, no matter the cost. I grabbed the safety harness pressed down on my lap and began to push up on it. I wanted out of the log. I didn’t care what I would do afterward… I just wanted out. I pushed up on it violently while grunting and thrashing around in my seat. When I’d reached the top of the hill and began to bowl over for the drop… the harness snapped open on its own. But by then… it was too late. I went over the drop without anything to hold me down and was promptly launched out of the log. An unseen force pushed me through the air and higher up, making the fall twice as hard. I landed on the bridge in front of the attraction… legs-first. Both of them were painfully snapped out of place on impact, rendering me a groaning, broken mess. I clutched at them, which only worsened the searing pain, and screamed in response.
The pain was so severe I actually began sobbing pathetically, feeling out of breath from the constant gasps.
Then… there they were.
Standing at the end of the bridge were the 5 demons who had made themselves physically known throughout the entire ordeal. My hunters. My oppressors… all grouped together.
“What do you want with me?!” I furiously screamed as fear mixed with anger inside me. The scream descended into more pathetic tears as the pain in my legs slowly got worse.
None of them responded in words, but the skeletal demon began shambling towards me. I tried to crawl away, but it was no use. It only served to further intensify the pain. The bony monstrosity fell on its knees and began crawling and slithering towards me, its pitch black eyes fixed on me and its facial expressions serious. Once it was a few inches away from my face, it grimly smiled. Then… it was over. The creature lunged at my throat, putting an end to my nightmare once and for all.
* * * * * *
Yes, my friend. I died that night. So why I am still talking? Well… let’s just say I have a new group of friends. The same beings who relentlessly hunted me down that night I now call friends.
I died, but I didn’t leave. As a matter of fact… I could be right behind you as of this moment…
Just a little joke. You’re alone. Well… to my knowledge at least. Some of my kind could be lurking in your humble abode without you even realizing it. As for me, I’ve made a nice home in the place of my death: “the happiest place on earth” itself. Just remember this: next time you pay a fun visit to this park… I could be participating in your vacation photos. And who knows? Me and my… friends… we might just pay you a visit once you leave…
Just… a thought.
CREDIT: J.G. Cross