The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
In the Off-Season
by Suzanne Madron
She walked along the beach and breathed the salt air. It was quiet now, after the throngs of tourists had fled back to their inland lives. She preferred the abandoned beach and the cold-wind portent of another brutal coastal winter. She liked the hollow sound of her boots kicking over the warped planks of the boardwalk.
The old amusement park was a sleeping skeleton against the sunset, the girders of rollercoaster and ferris wheel dark and silent, along with the screams of fear and joy that usually accompanied the lights. The gaping maw of the funhouse lurked dark behind large teeth and too-wide eyes.
She stopped and turned to look back at the funhouse. One of the large hand-painted fingers motioned for her to enter its mouth as the swirling tunnel began to move, though the lights were still dark.
She shook her head but her feet moved her in the direction of the cartoon face until she stood at the steps leading to the spinning entry tunnel. She stared up into the giant eyes, defiant. “I have something to do before I go,” she said. She had to raise her voice over the grinding noise of the machinery moving the tunnel. “The tide is coming in.”
We are hungry.
“I will be back.”
She sighed with relief as she felt the urge to enter the tunnel leave her and she was able to walk away. It was getting harder and harder to fight it, she realized. It would be harder still when the cold frost of winter had settled over the beaches and boardwalks and the buildings lost their lustre.
But not the funhouse. The funhouse was just as pristine as the day it opened in 1900. Her father had run the attraction for decades, feeding tourists into that hungry, laughing mouth until the day he had walked into it to save her from being its next meal in 2016.
Since then, the carnival – the entire town, really – had fallen out of favor with the tourist crowd. Too many missing people and too many drugs. She couldn’t blame the drug users, though. They understood what had been keeping the town alive for 116 years and now the one man who kept the beast in check was gone.
She scanned the empty beach and boardwalk and sighed. She knew the day would come when she would need to walk into that tunnel for the good of the town, but she had been good at finding tourists who would take her place. It was the only way to keep the thing in the funhouse from escaping its bonds and unleashing it on the town.
She removed a letter from her pocket and dropped it into the nearest mailbox on the boardwalk. She hoped her daughter would be able to accept the responsibility outlined in the note and accept that after so many decades, her mother’s time had finally come.
Fiction © Copyright Suzanne Madron
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Suzanne Madron:
The house across the street seems to go on the market every few months, but this time nothing about the sale is normal, including the new owners. No sooner has the for sale sign come down and the neighborhood is thrown into a Lovecraftian nightmare and the only way to find out is to attend the house warming party.