Pushing through the thick brush, Tammy shivered as a lone wolf’s howl rent the air, causing chill bumps to pop up all over. The silvery moonlight covered everything with a shimmering film, as a thick, green fog slivered across the ground.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Jude whispered behind her. “Why can’t we just go back to the campsite?”
Tammy felt something strong draw her into the woods. “I have to do it.” She knew the answer to her escape lay ahead, somewhere in a legend.
Jude growled. “I don’t understand why you have to do this. You’ve got nothing to prove to anyone, me most of all.”
“It’s not about you.” Tammy stopped, turned and faced Jude. She reached out and placed one of her hands on the side of his strong, bold face. “You’ve made your choice, now it’s time for me to make mine.”
Pushing forward, the sound of crickets and the smell of stagnant water assaulted Tammy’s senses as she sloshed through the soggy moss and putrid swampland. Her breath caught as she pushed through a tangle of dead branches and the skeletal giant of twisted, rusted iron appeared before her, like a ghost forming out of the mist.
“Holy shit!” Jude exclaimed from behind her. “That’s jacked up.”
Feeling her lips spread into a wide smile, Tammy answered, “I think it’s beautiful.”
“What the hell is a rollercoaster doing out in the middle of a swamp?” Jude scratched his head. “This isn’t right. This whole thing smells wrong.”
Tammy marched forward, walking between the legs of the coaster, which were buried deep into the soggy earth. She stared at the rusted frame above her. Jude followed close behind.
“This is the way out,” Tammy said as she climbed a set of rickety stairs to the tall launch platform.
“That’s ridiculous, Tammy. This is a roller coaster. It doesn’t go anywhere but in the same loop. It ends up where it begins.” Jude stood on the platform and pointed out into the foggy distance. “There’s nothing out there.”
Tammy placed a kiss on Jude’s soft lips and then stepped into the front car. She sat down and pulled the rusted safety bar into her lap. She looked back at Jude. “No, that’s not true.” Squeezing the bar with her sweaty hands, she said, “Staying where we are, going around in the same circles is where nothing lives.
This…” She nodded toward the rusted track. “…this is where living happens.”
Jude clenched his jaw and ran his hands through his hair. “That coaster is nothing but ups and downs, curves and hills. It doesn’t go any fucking where.”
“It’s life, Jude.” Tears welled in the corner of Tammy’s eyes. “It’s living.”
Shaking his head, Jude answered. “No, Tammy. That’s nothing but a rusted track. You could die out there. Just get the fuck out and come back with me to camp.”
Warm tears slid down Tammy’s cheeks. “I’m sorry, Jude, but I can’t go back. Being in that swamp, in that fog, in those woods …that’s not living, babe. We’re lost. We don’t know where we are, how we got here, but I can’t stay.” She wiped her cheek and nose with her shoulder as she gripped the lap bar. “This is the way out, I know it.” She looked up into his hazel eyes. “Please, come with me. I love you. I need you.”
Jude took a step back and shook his head. “I can’t. I’m not ready for this. I need… time.”
Tammy closed her eyes, pushing more tears from beneath her lashes. “I don’t understand, but I can’t make you choose.”
The coaster creaked and then roared to life. The metal rollers screeched across the rusted iron rails like the call of a banshee as it shifted and lunged forward into a slow crawl. Tammy looked back at Jude, “I will love you forever.”
The coaster entered the upward climb. Her legs shook in nervousness, her teeth chattered, and her heart pounded against her chest. She held her breath, not being able to breathe as the coaster reached the top of the summit.
At the pinnacle, she met deathly silence as the coaster came to a full stop. She looked over the side and below her a green fog hovered over the ground, exposing only the tallest peaks of the coaster. She saw no woods, no swamp, no platform, no Jude.
The coaster inched forward. She gripped the lap bar as her fear reached its apex. She let out a long, slow breath, released her grip on the safety bar and lifted her arms into the air above her head.
The coaster lunged forward and then plunged into an endless dive. Tammy screamed as loud as she could, releasing all the pain, fear and helplessness bottled inside. Every moment of rejection escaped into the air, and for once she felt truly free as the coaster raced along the rails. She would not close her eyes. She would not grab hold for safety. She wanted to fly, and that’s exactly what she did.
The dark green-gray sky turned to a bright-brilliant blue. The rancid reek of swamp melded into the salty tang of sea spray. The empty, hollow howls of lone wolves became replaced by the gleeful screams and peals of laughter from fellow coaster riders. Tammy grabbed the lap bar as the coaster came into the bay and stopped at a freshly painted platform. As she stepped from the car, she felt the dark memories of a beautiful pair of hazel eyes evaporate from her mind. A lone image standing on a haunted platform faded into a silver mist.
“Tammy!” A bubbly girl ran up to her and draped her arm over her shoulder. “So, how was the ride?”
Tammy felt as if she left something important behind, but she couldn’t remember what she forgot. She smiled. “That was one hell of a ride.”
Till next time,