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Memories of Theme Parks

by feerique_chanson


In the old, forgotten shadows behind the Haunted Woods lies a land that once held laughter and the heavy, syrupy scent of sugar-powdered fried dough. Neopets, young and old, darted between stalls and large, clanking contraptions, chasing after friends and looking for the next thrill to experience. Tinny xylophone music projected, barely audible under the raucous laughter and joyful screams. At night, giant floodlights lit every surface for the wide eyes of expectant youths.

     Now, the only light is from stars and a few half-burnt-out neon signs, which hum in the quiet formerly filled by the clank-whir of whirling, spinning, and diving machines.

     Slowly, three shadows, trembling in the flicker of the lights, emerge from between an old, crumbling building and an oversized stall. The blue Hissi in the lead motions for her companions to follow.

     "This is the place I told you about," she says. "Eloroth showed me last week."

     "I don't like it here, Shishanya," whispers a tiny shivering Ghost Frillabon. "I heard the Deserted Fairground was haunted."

     "Relax, Jeff," she replies. "You're a ghost anyway, so why are you scared?"

     "It's different," he pouts, coiling in a ball.

     "Well we won't be going to the Fairground-just near to it. This is the part most everyone has forgotten about. Besides, I'm the babysitter so you have to do what I say."

     The third in the group, a Christmas Doglefox, grumbles, "I don't see why you get to be in charge. I'm older'n ya anyway."

     "Maybe, Mina," answers Shishanya, "but you're a petpet so you need looking after."

     Shishanya leads the group past the outer ring of stalls. Mina, her bushy green-and-white tail curled between her rear legs, trails behind, growling, but Jeff stays as close as possible to Shishanya, slithering in pace with her.

     As she weaves around booths and gates, Shishanya begins to speak in a hushed, dramatic tone, repeating the narrative she herself only recently had learned.

     "As you know," she explains, "just past the booths on the far side of the abandoned park are the Deserted Fairgrounds. Now, the fairgrounds are corporate owned, with a set, constant, price for each game. The workers were hired by the owner to tend the booths."

     Absorbed in the story, Jeff bumps into a stall, squealing as old soda cans tumble down with a clatter. Mina sighs and rolls her eyes at the young petpet, glaring about at her surroundings as she skulks after her two companions.

     "In the old park, however," continues Shishanya, "every ride was privately owned and each owner could set admission as low or high as he or she wanted. Sometimes this meant rides were overpriced by people who didn't know the market, but most were fair. This was all before I was born, but Eloroth - you should be paying attention, Mina; after all, she's your owner - said some people would change their pricing at a whim, according to mood."

     By this time they have walked a little over a third of the way around the park and are approaching the back of the Deserted Fairgrounds. The murmur of vendors advertising their games is just barely audible over the distance.

     Wiggling her tiny red nose, Mina exclaims, "Mmm, custard!" and bolts to the rear entrance of a nearby building, snuffling and digging at the door.

     "No, Mina!" cries Shishanya. "That's the emergency exit for Carnival of Terror! If you think an old, abandoned theme park is creepy, wait until you have parachuting robot clowns throw pies at your face!"

     Jeff whimpers and Mina slowly backs away from the door. The tantalizing odor of cream-filled pies is easier to ignore now that she's aware they are in fact weapons.

     "Over here," urges Shishanya. "This is what I really wanted to show you."

     Her two smaller companions follow her gaze to one of the many gated-in areas. Inside lie several thrill rides in a state of disrepair. Closest is a rusted metal track. A few of the bars that formerly had formed loops and spirals have fallen out, the unlinked ends angling forlornly downward, as though depressed.

     "Eloroth told me all about this place. 'It used to be so beautiful,' she said. 'Our Mom built it when I was just a hatchling. She didn't have many neopoints and had a low and slow income back then, but she invested almost every point she earned into this place.

     "'You've probably noticed the trophy tossed in with all the rest of our junk in the garage. The one that says, "Third place at Theme Parks!!" Well, I want you to know about this because it says a lot about our Mom.

     "'After all the time and neopoints she spent on slowly building and improving her park, finally she was ready to open it. With me cradled in one arm (remember, I was much smaller then!) and her admission sign wedged under the other, she pushed her way through the crowd.

     "'Barely a soul glanced her way as she strapped the sign to her gate. After all, what was one more Theme Park in the already-present plethora of rides? It was like a cup of water tossed into an ocean.

     "'Unconcerned with the lack of customers, she carefully buckled me into the safety harness, letting me ride again and again until I tired of the ride. By the time I dismounted, a crowd - whispering and nudging each other - had formed outside the entrance. Mom helped me down the steps and then greeted her customers.

     "'As she approached, a small Acara cried out, "Is this a typo? There's no way that's correct!"

     "'"It is, my friend," answered Mom. "My rides are free to all: young or old; rich or poor."

     "'Parents cheered and put away their wallets. Children squealed and scrambled onto the rides. The other Theme Park operators… well, many of them were none-too-pleased. But a wise Elephante neighboring her saw opportunity in the impatient and frustrated children waiting in line for their turns. He quickly ran out to a bulk discount store and loaded up on goodies.

     "'Soon, he was back at his Theme Park with pretty trinkets arranged on a table and a new sign that read "Free admission with purchase." Many parents decided that they wanted a souvenir anyway and that they would prefer the shorter wait.

     "'Other vendors caught on and did the same, or reversed it by giving a free souvenir with price of admission. My favorite was a button that said, "I got the Freebie when I rode at Phoebe's." Mom bought one for me even though technically she was a competitor.

     "'It was exciting while it lasted, but eventually the parks started closing down. Mom never told me why and I was very sad. But before they closed, the people of Neopia gave awards to the best rides. There was one incredible one: if you look to the right, Shishanya, past that splintered banana stand, you can see it towering over the entire park. I didn't hear who won second prize. Mom couldn't believe it when they gave her third place. Her park was small compared to most others, but the townsfolk must have put a good word in because of her free admittance policy.'

     "I told Eloroth it was too bad the Theme Parks were closed because I would have liked one of those buttons," Shishanya continues. "She laughed and took me over to our Mom's old Ferris Wheel, which had managed to survive the rust and decay that had taken the other rides. You can see; it's still in good shape."

     Shishanya gestures at the towering circle. She then unlatches the panel over the control panels.

     "Eloroth showed me how to operate it," she says. "Let's go on a ride before we leave."

     The two petpets secure themselves in a seat on the great wheel. Shishanya activates it and then quickly flutters up to join them.

     "So," says Mina, as they ascend above the diminishing booths and rusted metal heaps, "Why d'ya think it shut down?"

     Shishanya gazes over the immense park, imagining it lit up in a flurry of activity, throngs of children below lined up like ants.

     "I really can't say," she answers wistfully, "but I think maybe because the operators realized that they were making more points on souvenirs than they ever had on the rides. Most of them run stores now, although a few have been hired by the Deserted Fairground to run games."

     The three ride silently for a few minutes more. Finally, Shishanya floats down and stops the ride, letting Mina and Jeff off.

     "So," asks Shishanya, as they exit the park, "What did you think?"

     "It was great!" remarks Jeff. "I had so much fun I forgot to be scared!"

     Mina trots up beside them, her green-and-white tail swishing high in the air. "Thank you," she says. "This was a good place after all. I hope we can see it working again some day."

     "Me too," Shishanya answers, latching the front entrance behind them.

The End

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