The county fair set up during the night. Friday Morning revealed an entire village of vendors, rides and midway games, the pinnacle of which was the one ride Cierra hadn’t seen since she was twelve years old. Perched in the distant sky, like an old nightmare sneaking back, the large, antiquated Ferris Wheel threw down its challenge. That evening, with tension crawling across her skin, she accepted.
Not surprisingly, the cracked, black, leather, seat felt hard and uncomfortable. As the lap bar was pressed into place, she felt a rush of fear in her stomach, the kind that made her muscles tremble and her bladder feel tight. Breathing deeply she was able to keep her heartbeat under control, while her mind repeated the thought, it’s just a carnival ride.
With wide eyes she watched as the asphalt dropped away beneath her red sneakers. Lifted to the top, she stared at her hands, rubbing her palms back and forth along the bar, while another passenger, of similar size and weight, was loaded into the opposite seat. Forcing herself to look down, she focused on the ride operator, a large shouldered man in a red t-shirt, sporting a long, silver ponytail and no discernible neck. He looked bored as a young mother, hair tangled into a frizzy top-knot, pressed her son against the sign that stated, you had to be this tall to ride alone. The kid bounced into the empty seat ahead of her with a big, excited smile and managed to hold still long enough for a second worker to secure his lap bar. With a sense of gratitude, she heard it lock into place. As they were lifted up, the boy twisted in his seat and looked at her, a cheshire cat grin plastered on his face.
Paused slightly below center now, she took another deep breath and searched again for the operator. The red shirt sprang out at her. To her horror, he was engaged in debate with a rather large woman in a pink muumuu who appeared determined to get into the next seat. No-Neck was shaking his head fiercely and pointing up at the top car holding the boy. By reflex Cierra glanced up. Her stomach clenched nervously as she saw the boy draped in half over his lap bar trying to sway the seat like a playground swing, his thin legs pumping back and forth. Swallowing the sudden lump in her throat she searched below for the top-knot that belonged to the boy’s mother. After a few seconds she gave up. Everyone looked nearly identical from that height. Then the boy began singing, loud and off-key, to the tune of Three Blind Mice.
“I love the ride… We’re going to die. I love the ride. You’re going to die!”
Cierra stared at him, her spine rippling with alarm. What kind of monster was he? Her hands tightened around the bar across her legs and she pulled at it, testing the lock. It was solid.
The entire wheel shuddered as the drive suddenly engaged, dropping her seat abruptly downward several feet before stopping and humming in place. Heart hammering in her chest, she looked for the operator.
No-Neck was holding tightly onto the lever that controlled the wheel, straining against it while yelling for help. Pink Muumuu had managed to throw herself into the seat and the wheel had rolled on its own. Craning herself around, Cierra could just see Pink Muumuu’s feet dangling too far off the ground for her to drop gently down. Her ears felt like they were twitching in nervous ticks as the boy laughed overhead and continued to sing his made up song.
Cierra felt herself losing control. Her thoughts, formerly a panicked jumble, swept together like the eye of a hurricane and fixed on the child.
“Knock that crap off!”
Surprise slackened his features for a moment and his jaw swung open. The forced turn of the wheel had brought him almost directly over top of her. They stared each other down for a few seconds and she watched the thoughts jostle through his young mind. His jaw snapped shut and he smiled sweetly.
A flurry of activity erupted below as workers came running to assist No-neck. Forgetting about the boy for a moment, she stared downward as three men swarmed toward Pink Muumuu and began heaving on the car, trying to pull it forward and down. Pink Muumuu wasn’t helping, instead she began shrieking and carrying on like she was the victim of a planned accident. Fascinated by the absurdity of it all Cierra forgot, for a moment, about the miniature menace above until something splatted on the top of her head. Raising a hand to her crown she felt dampness. Still hanging over his lap bar, the boy had a long string of drool oozing from his bottom lip, ready to fall. Her last few layers of fear shattered away. Squirming like a trapped slug she struggled to free herself from the lap bar while spitting threats at the boy.
“I’m going to toss your ass to the ground You will be nothing but a memory strewn at your mother’s feet!!”
There just enough room for her drag her legs sideways onto the seat. By pressing her back against the side she was able to wiggle herself free. Completely ignoring the rocking of both her seat and the wheel, she tucked her feet beneath her and looked at the support structure. There were plenty of cross pieces for her to climb.
The second glob of saliva landed on the back of her hand as she reached for the closest brace. Violently shoving herself to a standing position she locked her eyes onto his.
“Call for help. Maybe they’ll get to you before I do.”
Shouts came from below as people spotted her. Jamming a foot onto the back of the seat, she balanced herself against the swaying and used the cross piece to pull herself up.
“HELP! MOM HELP!” HIs small voice rang out through the air as he finally took her at her word.
The Ferris wheel engaged with a jolt and Cierra froze as the brace she was holding levelled out and moved downward. Her heartbeat slowed in disappointment. She was too late. Letting go, she balanced on the seat, one foot on the back and the other on the side, riding it to the bottom like a demented super villain.
No-Neck glowered at her from the control box. She grinned back as three workers swarmed her seat, reaching for her. Springing outward she sailed through them, landing on the balls of her feet and darted into the gathered crowd. Ducking around a ticket booth she pressed her back against it and waited. After a minute she risked a look back.
Recovered from his seat, the boy was delivered to Top-knot. Throwing himself on her, he buried his head in her stomach and begin to cry. Cierra snorted softly in disgust.
The Ferris wheel was closed for repairs.
As the crowd moved away, buzzing with speculation, she snatched a stray piece of hard, white, plastic piping leaning forgotten against a booth, and swung into step behind Top-knot and her soon-to-be-missing son.