This week’s challenge gave us the setting for the story.  Actually, Wendig was kind enough to give us 3 choices for the setting.  Only one of them would make any sense with the characters I’m using, so it was an easy decision.  It had to take place in an abandoned amusement park.  My inspiration was the old Land of Makebelieve in Upper Jay, NY.  I’ve never been to the area, so I don’t know how accurate this is, but it’s been destroyed by a flood by now anyway.  At the time this story takes place, at least one or two buildings (hopefully including the one I’m describing) were still at least partially standing. This story is more character development than true story.  Hopefully, you’ll still enjoy it.

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“What is this place?” Lenora crawled under the snipped wire fence, following her new-found friends.  Shane reached out a hand to help her stand.

“It’s an old theme park,” he explained.

Kendra suddenly appeared at Lenora’s elbow.  “And when he says ‘theme,’ he means it.  It used to be called Makebelieve.  It was kind of dorky, but totally great for little kids.  It had, like, all these storybook houses and fairytale things all over the place.”  Kendra shrugged.  “Guess it coulda been cute before it got all drowned.”

Lenora frowned.  “Oh don’t worry,” Shane wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her away from Kendra and Ian, who had been trying to steer her towards an algae-covered pond.  “It wasn’t that bad.  Well, it was.  It totally sucked for the owners of the place.  But nobody got hurt or anything.”

“Come on, man,” Ian whined.  “You didn’t even let me tell my ghost story!”

“That’s because your ‘ghost story’ is nothing but a lame attempt to make a campfire horror story to freak people out.”  Willow rolled her eyes.  She stuck her balled-up fists on the hips of her designer jeans, which were now spotted with mud.  “So are we gonna stand here all night and blab or are we going in?”

“In!” Kendra practically flew down the slight path through the weeds and brambles to a dilapidated shack.  The torn and filthy siding may once have been white.  A blue and moldy shudder hung off a window.  Lenora was surprised it was even still attached.  It looked as though one solid breeze would rip it away from the building.  Shadowy tree limbs reached down, pulling the gaping maw of the night’s blackness down over the two little stubs that stuck out of the roof.  Apparently, the blackness had already taken a bite years earlier.  Lenora saw no sign of what had once graced the building.

Ian followed close behind Kendra.  Shane kept his arm casually draped over Lenora and led her between the remains of two posts.  The door had been replaced by a very new-looking piece of thin particle board.  Someone had used blood-red paint to scrawl “X-Men” near the top and “Intruders will be fed to Wolverine!” on the bottom.  Kendra pulled up in front of the door.

“Which one of you guys did this?” she pouted.  “I wanted it to look nice.”

“Who do you think did it?” Willow crossed her arms.  “Seriously, Shane?”

“Yeah, have you ever even picked up a comic book?  Wolverine doesn’t eat people!” Ian shook his head.

Shane shrugged.  “I found it amusing.  If you guys really hate it, we can always pick up another board and paint it up together or something.”

Lenora shocked everyone by suddenly snorting.  “I get to be Wolverine, right?  Well, She-Wolverine, I guess.”

Willow and Shane laughed with her, relieved that she was finally joking.  She had been living with them for nearly four months and during that time she had laughed a grand total of three times.

“You can be whoever you wanna be, Nora,” Shane granted.

The board almost fell from its makeshift hinges as Kendra shoved it open.  Willow went right to a small wood-stove in the middle of the room.  She tossed a couple of wood blocks in the open door and set them on fire.  The glow illuminated a teenager’s dream hide-out.  Comfy furniture, rescued from the trash by the cash-strapped kids, sat scattered all over the small room.  An empty cooler dominated one of the short walls.  A slight mildew smell clung to the whole place, but that somehow added to the charm.  Posters plastered the walls, showcasing the interests of each person who frequented the place.  A tattered area rug partially covered a rusty-red splotch near the wood stove.  Lenora wasn’t sure she wanted to know what it was.

Ian snapped his fingers, pulling Lenora away from her observations.  “I forgot something in the car!”  He slipped out the door.

Shane patted an armchair next to him.  The puffy arms burst at the seams.  Lenora dropped down and sank into the cushions.  She smiled.  Shane started pointing out some of the other amenities of their hang-out.  “We’ve got food stashed in the cabinets under the window.  There’s games over in the corner.  There’s magazines here somewhere,” he stopped himself and frowned.  “But those are mine and Ian’s, so you probably don’t want to see them.”

“Probably not,” Lenora agreed.  “So we just kinda hang out here?  We drove half-an-hour to hang out?”

“Why not?” Kendra popped an Oreo in her mouth.  “There’s nobody telling us what to do here. We can use our powers without getting in trouble.  There’s no pressure to do anything if we don’t want to.  And besides…” the door snapped open again with Ian’s return and Kendra nodded towards him, “we can have this as much as we want.”

Ian held a bag of ice, a six-pack of Guiness, and a bottle of Tequila.  Willow relieved him of the liquor and left him to dump the ice into the cooler.

“Won’t we get in trouble?” Lenora asked.

“Never have yet,” Shane grabbed a warm beer.  “Don’t worry.  We’re not stupid.  We’ll sleep it all off before we head back home in the morning.”

Lenora accepted a glass of ice from Willow.  It couldn’t hurt.  Not if we’re careful.  It’ll make me feel better anyway.  Amber-colored tequila slopped into the glass, filling in all the cracks in the ice.

As soon as everyone had their drinks, Willow raised hers in a toast.  “To our newest friend!  May we be all the stronger for her presence!”

Lenora’s throat burned with the first of many swallows.  Each came easier than the last.  By the end of the night, she didn’t even care about the rationalizations anymore.  Her world extended only to her friends.  Did anyone else even matter anymore?

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Comments
  1. louisesor says:

    Interesting story.
    A rite of passage for many.

  2. Damyanti says:

    Stopping by to welcome you on board the A to Z Challenge April 2012.
    Look forward to your challenge posts!

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

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