Refusing to take her eyes off the antiquated Ferris Wheel, Sierra turned her baseball cap around backward and walked through the midway with all the solemness of a prisoner marching to her death. The county fair would be here for a week, but her resolve wouldn’t last that long. Most wheels had turned into fluffy cages with pastel umbrellas and enough seating for seven people. Hardly worth a worried glance let alone a full blown nightmare. The chances of running into this particular wheel again were pretty much zero, so if she was going to put her old, childhood grudge to rest it had to be now.
Hyper-aware of the hard, steel, seat frame beneath the thin cushion, she rubbed her slick palms back and forth over the lap bar and tried not to whimper as the asphalt dropped away. Staring bravely down she focused on the bored looking, red shirted ride operator. The line moved quickly as he sorted people into the empty cars, carefully balancing the old style wheel. Rotating slowly past the start position she hung just off the ground for a minute and watched anxiously while the operator questioned a young mother. Hair tangled into a frizzy top-knot, the mother sneered at him and shoved her son against the sign that stated you had to be THIS tall to ride alone. Wearing a bright yellow t-shirt with a distinct, recognizable S on it, the boy bounced into the empty seat ahead of Sierra with a broad smile.
Over the top, and stop, just below center. Taking a steadying breath Sierra tried to enjoy the view. The fair had set up practically over night, transforming the small, county fairground into a flashy, colorful, mystic village. She could see all the way to the river. Relaxing a bit she looked down, searching again for the operator. His red shirt sprang out at her. Engaged in an arm waving debate with a rather large woman wearing a pink muumuu, the operator was shaking his head firmly and pointing at the top car. By reflex, she glanced up. Her stomach tightened nervously at the way the boy was draped in half over his lap bar trying to sway the seat like a swing, his thin legs pumping back and forth. Trying to swallow the lump forming in her throat she searched the crowd for the top-knot belonging to the boy’s mother. Then the boy started to sing, loud and off key to the turn of Three Blind mice.
“I love the ride… We’re going to die. I love the ride. You’re going to die!”
“What the hell?” Gaping at him in surprise, she tightened her grip on the bar across her legs.
The 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.
Straining against the control lever, the operator was yelling for help. Pink Muumuu had managed to get by him and throw herself into the empty seat, her sudden weight off-balancing the wheel which had rolled on its own. Craning herself around, Sierra could just glimpse Pink Muumuu’s feet dangling off the ground. Overhead the boy laughed and continued to sing his made up song.
“I love the ride! We’re going to d–”
“Knock that crap off!” Losing control of her panic, she narrowed it to a sharp point and aimed at the boy. “Shut your trap!”
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. For a few seconds they stared at each other and she watched the thoughts jostle through his young mind. Clipping his jaw shut he gave her a snarky smile.
A flurry of activity erupted below as workers came running to assist the operator. Forgetting about the boy for a moment, Sierra watched as three men swarmed Pink Muumuu and began heaving on the car, trying to pull it forward and down. Instead of cooperating, Pink Muumuu started shrieking, carrying on like she was the victim of a planned accident. Fascinated by the absurdity Sierra forgot, for a moment, about the miniature menace above. Then something wet splatted on the top of her head. Raising a hand to touch the dampness she glowered up at kid. Still hanging over his lap bar, the boy had a long, string of drool oozing from his bottom lip, ready to fall. The last few layers of fear shattered away. Squirming like a trapped slug she fought to free herself from the lap bar while spitting threats at the boy.
“I’m going to toss your crappy, singing ass to the ground! You’re going to be nothing but a memory strewn at your mother’s feet!!”
There was just enough room for her to 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, with a feral snarl, used the cross piece to pull herself up. The boy began screaming.
“HELP! MOM HELP!” His high voice rang through the air.
The Ferris wheel engaged with a jolt and Sierra froze as the brace she was holding leveled out and moved downward. She was too late. Her heartbeat slowed in disappointment. Balancing on the seat, one foot on the back and the other on the side, she rode it to the bottom like a demented super villain.
The operator glowered at her while three workers swarmed and reached for her. Grinning crazily she sprang outward and sailed through them, landing on the balls of her feet. Darting into the gathered crowd she ducked around a ticket booth.
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. The Ferris wheel was closed for repairs.