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A New Perspective
This was an assignment written for my creative writing class.
The cold made my arms ache, and I wrapped the soft sleeves of my jacket around myself to try and seep some warmth into them. The long walk from the other side of the park didn’t seem to bother them as much as it did me, and irritation simmered slowly in my stomach.
I didn’t want to be here in this cold, run-down excuse for an amusement park and I didn’t want to go on this stupid ride. No matter how I changed my tone of voice when trying to talk to them, I was always met with brusque words laced with annoyance. They talked with an irritability that only came from being fed up with the elements against you, including your loser third-wheel friend.
Turning a corner and entering into the open lot made the wind pick up around us, the chill making my ears sting and my eyes water. I hissed through my teeth and squinted my eyes closed which went completely unnoticed by the other two teenagers. They were too busy looking up, and up, and up, into the sky, staring into the face of a metal monstrosity.
I stopped. I looked frantically at the backs of their heads, trying to mentally will them to turn around and look at me. Maybe, if they turned around and saw the fear on my face they’d stop too. Maybe they’d take a step back and ask me what was wrong. Maybe they’d care for once.
My lack of magical mental powers failed me, and they didn’t turn back. They didn’t even look back. I was left alone, staring at the backs of their heads as they slowly disappeared from view.
Suddenly, I could feel the cold slam into me, stiff and unforgiving. I shivered violently, stuffing my hands into the crux of my armpits. An influx of people bashed into me from behind, bumping me in their passing and uncaring in their rudeness. I felt uneasy and tired. I wanted to go home more than I had ever wanted to go home before.
I spun around, away from their disappearing heads and the metal monstrosity and strode away. I walked and I walked, and I didn’t care where I was going or where I was going to end up. I couldn’t even stop walking, because if I did then these feelings I was feeling and this ache inside me would consume me, and the wind would surround me, and I would never be able to get out.
Of course, not looking where I was going, I bumped into someone in front of me. I made this punched-out “oof” noise and stumbled back. The man I had run into whipped his head around and glared at me, and I hurried to stutter out my apology before he could say something. I was quiet and small and obviously not a threat or someone who wanted to start any trouble and he seemed to see that. He turned back around without a word.
I looked around, trying to see where I was in all this commotion. I could smell corndogs from my right and my stomach growled. I looked at the inviting fairy lights strung from the food stands and heard the warm laughter of family’s stopping for a bite to eat and wished that I had been smart enough to stay with the others. Sure, I would still be ignored, but at least I’d have access to money to get something to eat. Now I was alone and hungry and lost, like an idiot.
It took me a second to realize what sort of line I had ended up in. Looking up and up and up again, craning my neck as far as it would go, I saw another giant metal monstrosity in front of me. It was hideous, with huge metal beams straining further into the sky than I could see. It was painted with a garish neon green that reminded me of vomit. I felt sick to my stomach just looking at it. This one was taller than the one the others wanted to go on, the metal stretching further into the sky than I had ever seen something go. It seemed like something people got onto and never got off from. That’s how scary it looked.
A rolling sickness sat heavy in my stomach. My legs felt like lead, too heavy to run now.
I turned around to get out of the line, but two more people had lined up behind me and the line in front of me was moving fast. Craning my head from side to side, my body hesitating, I tried to find a gap big enough for me to slip through. But people were stubborn in amusement parks, and no one dared to move an inch from the line.
The man I had been trying to find an escape route around shuffled forward and I hopped back, startled. I’d never been good at voicing myself, and this time was no exception. It didn’t help that my throat felt like sandpaper, and I could feel tears welling up behind my eyes.
I turned towards the disappearing line in front of me and followed the backs of people like a sheep led to slaughter. The bravery I wished all my life that I had had not miraculously materialized and I was left with no choice but to shuffle forward with the rest of the group.
Five or so people at the very front of the line stepped into the arena where the metal monster sat waiting. When the last victim separated from the rest, the gate clanged behind him, and counting the people from the front of the line to me, I realized with a cold horror that I would be with the next group.
I could only watch in something akin to horror as everyone seated themselves in the large metal ring, strapped in tight by the attendants. Two girls giggled nervously to themselves, rosy-cheeked from the cold, as an attendant fixed their buckles. Three teenage boys laughed loudly at each other, kicking their feet out like children where their legs couldn’t reach the ground. Most others sitting around talked delightedly to their friends or the people around them as if they’d known them their entire lives.
Very few looked safe or secure in the flimsy straps attached across the long of their bodies, but I supposed that was the point. Sure, I assumed that there were procedures in place to keep everyone safe, but I didn’t know that for sure. Too many possibilities floated around my head, but no matter what I thought, I couldn’t reason with myself. No one had ever been willing to listen to me, to try and see the thoughts in my head. There was no reason to listen to myself if others hadn’t even thought to try.
With a shunk, the attendant in the back of the arena pulled a lever on the button board in front of them, and the metal ring started turning ever so slowly. In circles it went as it rocked side to side, swinging the passengers in nauseating circles. A collective gasp echoed over the concrete, and it bounced around my eardrums like an earworm I couldn’t shake.
I felt disconnected from my body, like I was floating ten feet away and looking at myself. Or perhaps I was inside of myself, looking through my eyeballs as if they were a TV screen, stashed away in a secret hidey-hole inside my brain where no one would ever find me. Something deep inside of me hoped that’s where I was.
I prayed that I wasn’t standing in this too-short line, miserably waiting for my turn, but I knew I wasn’t lucky enough for that to be the case. I wasn’t lucky enough for me to be where I really wanted to be. I was never lucky enough.
The monster circled and tipped on its side, leaving people grasping desperately onto their harnesses.
That’s when people started screaming. Sounds of terror echoed off the arena as they swung side to side, unable to do anything but hang on. I watched in despair as the monster swung all the way to the very top of itself; the people hung upside down and rocked with the motion. I couldn't even see their faces anymore, could barely hear their screams from way up at the top.
They swung back to the floor with violence, and I was convinced for a moment that everyone would be swung so hard they’d fly off their harnesses and splat against the concrete. But they didn’t. Their bodies remained intact, and they swung back up and around all the way to the very top again.
Eventually, after they’d gone around once, twice, then three whole times, they tipped nearly to the top, but not all the way. They slowed to a stop and then swung back from the direction they came, their momentum failing to get them over.
They slowly lost more and more speed, swinging closer and closer to the ground until eventually they stopped altogether, back to the slow and sweet rocking that filled me with such fear when I first started watching.
The attendants sprang into action, unbuckling people and stepping aside so people could get off. People had windblown looks on their faces, hair windswept and crazy as they looked to their friends in awe and shock. Their faces showed the all-encompassing idea of “Holy shit, we did it. We made it. We’re alive.”
People stumbled to the ground, walking on shaking and uncoordinated legs.
The gates opened again.
I was ushered in by the people around me, with no choice but to go forward. My legs were trembling so badly I tripped on my way in. I stumbled, convinced that I would die before I even touched the monster, but my reflexes kicked in and caught me before I could.
Almost unconsciously, I sat down in the nearest seat to me. The chair hovered so far off the ground I had to jump up into the seat, and I started kicking my feet back and forth like the three teenage boys I had seen doing the same thing.
I rubbed my hands over the seat handles, rough and plastic, cratered like how the moon looked. The skin of the monster.
An attendant came up to me and forcefully jerked the harness over my head. She buckled me in quickly, hurrying over to the other victims. Words of protest died in my throat, my cowardice killing them. I meekly put my head to my chest and tried to breathe.
I couldn’t believe I was doing this. Why was I doing this? On the other hand, what would I even do if I got off? I’d have to find them again and tell them what a coward I had been, not even able to manage one ride by myself. I felt it was too late now and resigned myself to my fate.
I heard the clicks of buckles being buckled in, and the laughing so familiar, I nearly convinced myself that I was back in the line, afraid, but safe.
The chattering reached a crescendo, and I felt myself begin to move.
Slowly, like a rocking chair, comforting in its slowness, my legs swung side to side, and I rotated around to see the other side of the arena.
The attendant was there, in front of the button board, the lever that set the monster off flicked on. I nearly wept at the knowledge that there was nothing I could do to stop this. Nothing I could do to survive.
The monster picked up speed, my legs swinging violently from side to side. We finally tipped to a slant, and even that made my heart skip a terrified beat in my chest. I felt sweaty and hot, even on a cold evening like this, and my hands slipped from their death grip around the harness. I dug my nails into the plastic, desperate in my fight to survive.
The monster reached a tipping point. I slanted all the way to the side, my body hanging horizontally, my head parallel to the ground. I screamed.
My throat burned from it; my lack of speech throughout the day made my vocal cords strain from disuse. My mouth felt like cotton, stuffed and dry. Others around me had started to scream too, ranging from terrified shrieks to excited hollers. My noise was drowned out in a cacophony of sound, a commotion that smothered me.
We swung back with a vengeance, enough so that it forced my head back.
I wasn’t strong enough to bring my skull back to center, so I just laid there, pressed close to the seat back. I closed my eyes, but the forces I could feel around me scared me more when I couldn’t see what was going on, so I opened them again.
Being able to see was terrifying, though. Looking all the way down to the ground gave me vertigo and looking up into the sky made me feel small and out of control, so I ended up closing and opening my eyes in short bursts. This went on, again and again, blinking terrified long blinks where I was too scared to look then suddenly too scared not to look.
We reached a point where we were nearly vertical. I felt my body slip down; my head pointed more towards the ground than the sky. I screamed again, a long torturous scream that sounded like a murder was happening right next to me. I couldn’t control myself, when one scream ended, another followed.
I wasn’t crying, though. I was too scared too. The shock of it all sent my body haywire, and tears would not help me survive this.
We swung back down, and somehow, I knew that once I swung back up, it would be over. The air rushed around me and my throat scratched around a silent scream.
We rushed past the people in line, and I hoped that they could see the fear in my eyes, could heed my warning and know to get out while they still could.
The people in line rushed past in less than a second and we were swinging up again, more momentum than I had felt before.
Up and up, I swung, but I couldn’t bear to look. But, I felt it. I could feel it. Completely upside down, my chest pushed against my harness, my fingers scraping against it.
For some reason, I opened my eyes. I looked down and the world stretched below me, a warped wonderland that looked so different from up here than when I was walking down there. Time slowed. I knew that we were going to swing back down, but for now I was suspended in a time paradox that left me feeling melted and dizzy.
I looked at the tiny people walking about, rushing into lines and laughing with their friends.
And then I saw them. My friends. The ones that had all but forced me into coming here, that had ignored me all car ride, and refused to take a break when I needed it.
I don’t know how I noticed them, how I saw them all the way down there, but I did. Jake’s grey hoodie sat loose on his figure and Kai’s classic cargo jacket fluttered with the wind.
Kai had her hand over her forehead, eyes squinting up towards me, and I could've sworn that she looked right in my eyes. Jake pointed towards me, then turned and said something to Kai. She nodded and squinted harder at me. I knew that it was stupid, and that the height and the adrenaline must have been messing with my head, but at that moment, I had never felt so seen in my life.
Had they walked all the way back to find me? Had they finally realized that I was drifting, that I had gotten lost? I wondered what they saw, staring at their lost friend 100 feet in the sky and upside down. Did they see me in a new perspective in the same way that I was seeing them? I wanted to know.
And then I was tipping, and my sight was back amongst the stars, and the wind was cutting into me again. I screamed again, finding my voice, and then somehow, I was already back up at the top. I looked for them again, all the way at the bottom, but I couldn't find them anymore. Somehow, time was faster than it had ever been. It felt like almost no time had passed at all until I was swinging back down to the ground again, and again.
I let myself have fun this time. I screamed, but it didn’t quite feel like I was dying anymore.
I tipped nearly to the top, but not quite, and I swung back down to the ground from the way that I’d come up. It was nearly over, I knew. It was insane, but a part of me didn’t quite want it to end.
I, and the other people riding, slowed to a stop. It was gentle, somehow, and almost relaxing. The ride slowed to a complete stop, and there the attendants were again, springing into action, and unbuckling people left and right. An attendant unbuckled me, and I took a second to breathe before hopping down.
People all around me were laughing delightedly, stumbling into each other on excited legs, adrenaline drunk and happy. I felt the same way, somehow. I walked on my own pair of shaky legs towards the exit, and I saw them again.
Kai and Jake looked around frantically at the people leaving before Jake caught my eye and waved hurriedly at me. Kai caught the motion and started waving too. I smiled at them, waving back.
I crossed the gate, and my weight pitched forward, my legs failing me when I tried to move too soon too fast.
I didn’t even have time to make a noise before both Kai and Jake were catching me, one on either side and lifting me to my feet.
I burst out laughing, leaning on both of them for support, like I had seen others do with their friends. They didn’t push me away, either, but seemed to hold me a little closer.
Kai and Jake laughed nervously, unsure of what I thought was so funny.
“Hey, you okay?” Jake piped up. “We were looking everywhere for you, man.”
“Yeah,” Kai pitched in. “All of a sudden, you were just gone. We didn’t even know where to look.”
I mumbled a “Sorry,” under my laughter.
“Yeah, well, at least we found you, I guess.” Jake said.
“What the hell were you doing up there, anyway?” Kai got in my face, pinching my cheek and shaking my head roughly. “I thought you didn’t like rollercoasters.”
“I’m sorry.” I said. “I didn’t mean to wander off, I was just getting tired.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I just wanted to do so much, I kind of forgot about the rest of the team, you know?”
I knew that Jake was trying to apologize for more than that, but right now I wasn’t bothered with getting a full apology. I knew how sorry he was.
Kai also looked sorry, but she was tougher than Jake, and I knew that her way of apologizing would come after in a more subtle way.
I chuckled. “It’s okay, it was fun.”
Kai looked at me like I had grown three heads, but I just giggled into her shoulder again.
“What do you mean it was fun? I saw you screaming your head off up there.”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “that’s what you’re supposed to do isn’t it?”
Kai huffed but took my answer without another word.
“So, what do you guys want to do now?”
I looked back at the metal monstrosity behind me and smiled.
“I kind of want to do it again.”