Nightmare Park

Kelly had heard the stories‌—‌exhibits coming to life after midnight‌—‌just before her first visit to the park, at the age of seven. For weeks afterwards, her sleep had been plagued by maniac executioners and bloodthirsty convicts, severed limbs and broken bones.

It was a rite of passage in the village, though, and everyone laughed about it after a few years. A few, like Debbie, made out they’d known it was all rubbish from the start‌—‌but if that was the case, why did she never sneak in at night, like she said she would? There was always some excuse‌—‌it was raining, or her annoying brother got in her way, or she was coming down with a fever.

Kelly wouldn’t cry off, though. Tomorrow, the photos on her phone would shut that cow up for good.

There was a gap in the fence, hidden by thick bushes on both sides. Kelly squeezed through, stood on the path, cobbles glistening in the moonlight. An owl hooted, and wind rustled through the tree-tops, but otherwise it was silent. And still. Kelly shuddered, checked her phone. Five minutes to midnight.

She walked away from the gift shop and cafe, past the Maze of Mayhem and on to the Village Of The Damned.

The buildings loomed, and the sign outside the Bloody Ram creaked. In the alley next to the tavern, Kelly could just see the legs of the Drunk, but the model made no movement, uttered no sound. Without lights, she couldn’t tell if there was still blood dripping from his throat.

There were more figures as the street opened up into the square. The Executioner held his axe aloft, the Hangman’s noose rested on Witch Arianna’s neck as she gazed out stoically. One of the Schoolgirl Slaughterers leaned against the window of Franklin’s Store, pleated skirt hitched up and bloody knife in her hand. And in the far corner of the square sat the well. If the power had been on, Kelly knew she would have heard the soft calls from the two girls, luring the unsuspecting to their doom.

So much death, so much evil‌—‌and so many obvious fabrications. As Kelly had discovered last year, there were no official records of any of these horrors, not in the library’s old papers, nor on more reliable websites. And when she’d interviewed the owner for that school project, he’d refused to be drawn into definite statements. Instead, he’d shrugged his shoulders and smiled, talked instead of imagination being stronger than truth.

Knowing all that didn’t make the place any less eerie, though. The shadows in Kelly’s peripheral vision played tricks on her, telling her the models were moving in, that they were eager to welcome their only guest at such a dark hour. And the wind through the tree-tops seemed to speak now, a sibilant, drawn-out “waaaaake uuuuup.”

She checked her phone‌—‌one minute. Kelly took a couple of quick photos, checked the time stamp. She’d have to stay about half an hour, she reckoned.

Kelly’s next photo, as midnight struck, was of the Schoolgirl, and she remembered Greg wrapping his arms around the model, and sticking his tongue in her ear. She’d laughed, especially when the park staff threw them out. But now, she wondered how many others had done something similar to the Schoolgirl. Maybe it was the moonlight, but the model’s shoulders dropped down, like she was worn down by such childishness. Her lip was curled up in distaste, too.

But she wasn’t real. Nor was the voice that seemed to rise from the well. Probably a glitch in a computer, or someone not shutting down all the power properly.

Kelly took a photo of the Executioner. His axe seemed higher than she remembered, and his head was turned more to the square, like he was looking for someone.

Voices echoed on the wind, and she shuddered. She couldn’t decide if they were saying “help us” or “join us.”

The bar sign creaked, and so did a door. Kelly spun, thought something moved in the shadows. There, over by the alley. Or maybe by the hanging tree. She turned slowly, swallowing hard, dark shapes darting away before she caught them.

The Executioner stood behind her.

His axe rested casually on one shoulder. Beneath the bottom of his mask, his lips curled into a toothless smile. Shapes moved behind him, figures emerging from doorways and alleys, models coming to life. The Schoolgirl ran her knife along her arm as she leered at Kelly. The Drunk started singing, a song to welcome death.

Kelly felt warmth running down her leg. She gripped her phone, and the camera flashed.

The Executioner leaned in with the smell of sour breath and damp wood. “Looks like we have some fun tonight.”

And there was nothing Kelly could do to stop them.

* * *

“So where’s this new model?” Debbie asked, shivering as a cloud covered the sun.

“Just past the Drunk in the alley,” Greg said. He grinned. “Scared?”

“As if!”

“Billy says its pretty gruesome. Filmed some mob thing, got her stomach sliced open. Says you can see her guts and everything!”

“In a dark alley?” But Debbie hoped it wasn’t like the blood dripping from the Drunk’s neck. Greg was only trying to wind her up. Probably still miffed that Kelly had gone off to that Uncle in Italy, the one she’d never mentioned before. Secretive cow!

Debbie ignored the Drunk’s gurgling. It wasn’t real. Just a tacky recording.

“That’s her,” Greg said.

Then he froze. His mouth hung open as he let out a strangled gasp.

Debbie slapped his arm. “Stop messing about.”

He shook his head, and pointed, silently. Debbie followed his gaze.

She had to clutch Greg’s arm to stop herself falling. Bile rose in her throat, and her stomach twisted in knots.

“She never went to Italy,” Billy said as he doubled over and vomited on his shoes.


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2 thoughts on “Nightmare Park

  1. Pingback: New short story ‘Nightmare Park’ | T. W. Iain

  2. Pingback: New short story, to get you in the mood for Halloween | T. W. Iain

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