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Published by Mr. Veech


Peter saw the amusement park shortly after leaving the hospice where his mother had recently passed away. Its presence beyond the horizon struck him as strange, for he could not remember seeing it there before. The large ferris wheel as well as the display of lights which flickered against the night sky without any discernible pattern appeared out of place, as if the park itself perhaps belonged to a completely different world. But there was something else, something far less tangible, which compelled him to turn into the inconspicuous dirt road that led to the park’s grounds. Peter knew nothing regarding what it was that caused him to approach the amusement park instead of returning straight home. Having spoken to his mother for the very last time, it seemed the least appropriate or likely action to take. But even though her death lingered in the forefront of his mind, it was as if he had not reached complete awareness concerning the severity of the event itself. Regardless, Peter felt that he ultimately had no real say in the matter. There was a feeling of necessity, an uncanny meeting with destiny, which beckoned him towards the place.

Upon entering a small parking lot, Peter saw no other vehicles present aside from his own. But it was quite clear that the park was still open for business judging from the array of flashing lights. There was music too, a melancholy sort of melody one would not expect to hear from such a place. Once Peter was close enough to the entrance, he saw a large sign composed of arched letters which read “DREAMLAND” in the same shade of bright red.

As he approached the amusement park’s ticket booth, he saw someone standing there whose face was obscured due to the blinding effect produced by the many lights. Peter was about to hand the person whatever money was left in his wallet, but before he could slide the money under the window, the figure promptly handed him a single ticket without offering so much as a simple “thank you” or “good evening.” He noticed there was something peculiar about the way in which the person moved his or her arms. Indeed, the movements appeared stilted and forced. He soon realized that the reason for this was that the figure standing behind the ticket booth was, appearances to the contrary, not a person at all, but a machine or automaton.

Although he initially hesitated, Peter eventually took the ticket from the automaton’s white-gloved hand before entering the amusement park.

The charming exterior of the park was apparently misleading. Peter thought it was nothing short of a miracle that the place was even remotely operational. What awaited him on the other side was a large courtyard area that he would have found impressive, even marvelous, were it not for the piles of debris strewn about along with parts of unidentifiable machinery which had been carelessly disposed of in large crates. Standing in the center of the courtyard was what looked to have once been a miniature representation or model of the amusement park itself positioned atop a crude fountain long devoid of water. Despite the model’s derelict condition, Peter could most definitely see a ferris wheel which was obviously a small replica of the actual one he had seen when he first encountered the park.

Even though Peter felt a slight tinge of disappointment regarding the park’s initial allure, it did not deter him from venturing forth. True, the place had lost its original beauty, but it had gained, at least in Peter’s mind, a different kind of beauty in the process, one that was far more restrained as well as sorrowful. Nevertheless, if what Peter had already seen was but a preview of whatever else awaited further in, it was enough to have easily driven any normal individual away. But perhaps it was not really an issue or question of wanting to be present amidst this faint graveyard of machinery and false jocundity, for the thought that he needed to be here for some strange reason continued to linger in the back of his mind. Regardless, he felt it was already too late to turn back, even if he had been tempted to do so.

There were various concession stands dispersed throughout the park, though all appeared to be empty. Stationed behind each one was an automaton not unlike the one he previously saw behind the ticket booth. They made Peter think of reluctant as well as cheerless clowns who were forced into some role they were not accustomed to, for they were all dressed in the same somber attire, a drab array of red and white stripes and polka dots partially covered with dust and grime. If viewed from a far enough distance, they could have easily fooled anyone into believing they were human beings. Close enough inspection, however, revealed that their faces were without features aside from a narrow opening which only crudely resembled a mouth. Although he thought he might have witnessed a turning of the head on more than one occasion, they stood motionless.

Despite the fact that Peter mainly came across long dead attractions that looked beyond repair, there were, surprisingly, still some areas which showed indications of life, the most prominent being the large ferris wheel which towered above the rest of the park.

Of the small handful of attractions which still functioned, one of these was what appeared to be a traditional dark or tunnel ride. It was nothing spectacular. Whoever was responsible for building the ride itself seemed intent on not drawing the attention of those who might pass by such a place. Aside from the flashing lights that appeared to have been carelessly placed around the outside, there were no extravagant markings or designs decorating the ride’s exterior. One might have easily mistaken it for a vandalized warehouse were it not for the wooden tracks which disappeared into a black tunnel along with a corroded sign positioned above the entrance. Even though the sign was barely legible, Peter could read the words “BETTER TIMES” written across its worn surface.

Of course, Peter had seen similar rides before, but he could not recall ever riding in one, nor had he ever felt the desire to. Nevertheless, something drew him towards the ride’s gated entrance, for there was something about the ride itself which was strangely familiar. Even though he could not remember ever seeing it in the past, it was as though Peter had encountered it before, perhaps when he was a young child. No less strange was the fact that a short line of cars, which had hitherto remained concealed, emerged from the dark tunnel shortly before coming to an abrupt stop just as Peter approached the entrance.

Curious about what was contained within, Peter seated himself in the car closest to him and waited for the ride to begin. Seconds later he was thrown into the darkness.

At first there was nothing. But he eventually saw the lights in the distance. As he slowly approached, his eyes fell upon a panoply of scenes or artificial reenactments of events unfamiliar to him. But as he observed that which was before him, it eventually occurred to Peter, despite his initial reaction, that the events on display were not wholly foreign to him, for it became apparent that he himself was contained within every passing scene. But this element of familiarity was mitigated by the simple fact that the scenes in question depicted a fictitious life, a life Peter had not lived. It was a life devoid of both failure as well as regret. More specifically, it was a painful representation of the way things ought to have been. There were scenes which portrayed a distant happy childhood, not a frightened child who did his best to survive a broken household dominated by a tyrannical father. If there had been actual events that even remotely resembled subsequent scenes, he would have witnessed the fruits of a successful marriage, not a marriage spoiled by the death of an only child, a marriage which ended in a bitter divorce. Although strange, Peter was not at all disturbed by these false images, for they were images which he himself had conjured over the years.

Peter was convinced, as the name of the place had already suggested, that this was all a dream, even though it was a dream of the rarest sort, a dream in which he was in full control of his faculties; a dream whose very reality was not far from possessing the same substance as that of waking life. How else could he account for such strange details? It did seem as though the park, despite its apparent lifelessness, knew him on the deepest of levels. It seemed to know myriad things about him, things which he had never openly disclosed to another human being.

The ethereal quality of these experiences made him think that perhaps he was still seated next to his mother at the hospice, that he had at some point fallen asleep by her side. Perhaps he could then eventually open his eyes to discover that she was still alive. Or perhaps she had died mere moments ago while he wandered through the ruined park. Whatever the possibility, there was no real way of knowing whether or not it was true except, of course, through the act of waking up.

He discovered other rides that evening, rides which also appeared to serve as outward manifestations of his deepest thoughts as well as inner longings. It seemed as though the park were mocking his very existence, that its sole purpose was to show or remind him of all the things that should have but never, for various reasons, came to be. Peter had already reached the sober conclusion that his entire life was, all things considered, a failure in more ways than one. At best his personal journey through life was laughable, assuming it was viewed from a great enough distance. If viewed from up close, however, it was a pitiable exercise in futility, a vain attempt to make reality conform to impossible expectations.

Once again, he was not particularly disturbed by what he had encountered in the park. To be sure, his very soul was brought to a state of melancholy resignation, a place without even the faintest glimmer of light. But there was nothing there which could surprise him, even if the entire experience was accompanied by a persistent yet gentle sort of pain. It was a pain he was already quite familiar with, a pain which, although certainly paradoxical, he found rather soothing for once. It was soothing insofar as it put his previously restless mind partially to rest, at least that part of his mind which had stubbornly refused to let go of the agonizing discrepancy it felt between reality and fantasy. At least in this place the distinction between the two no longer seemed applicable.

It was not long before Peter stood directly below the park’s ferris wheel. He slowly lifted his head, staring up at the enormous machine with an awe-inspired look across his face. It was as if he were standing in the presence of a magnificent cathedral or some other sublime monument which exuded divine power. He knew it existed, just like everything else in the park, for his own sake. He therefore knew that this was no ordinary ferris wheel.

Aware that he had reached the end of his brief journey through the park, Peter finally took his place in one of the ferris wheel’s passenger cars and waited for the ride to commence.

He was soon lifted up into the night sky before being brought back down. This up and down motion reminded Peter of the many times throughout his life when he had let hope guide him through the darkness. This blind commitment to something so indefinite, while strong at first, gradually waned as he grew older. There was the inevitable descent of disillusionment and despair which always began at the very summit of hope. Perhaps this was something that awaited everyone near the end of their life. The only thing that distinguished Peter from the rest of the world was that he had come to acknowledge the futility of trying to overcome the darkness at an earlier age than the people dying in cold hospital beds. He saw through it all, the lies which kept one chained to life, yet he continued to exist for some inscrutable reason. The truth, it seemed, was that his spirit had already been broken beyond repair, so there was really nothing which could possibly break him. It occurred to him that he had already died a long time ago, and that he was essentially nothing more than a vacuous shell bereft of all vitality.

It was in the middle of Peter’s ride on the ferris wheel that the surrounding lights slowly began to fade into the darkness. The park was closing. The music died along with the steady turning of the ferris wheel, leaving Peter at the very top of the great wheel. He was not afraid or especially concerned about being left alone. He actually found the surrounding blackness comforting in a strange sort of way. But no matter how consoling he felt it to be, he knew that it was merely an imitation, or even premonition, of a greater blackness.

This will not hurt, he told himself, before stepping over the edge of the car. Dream or reality - it never really mattered.

Peter plummeted from the very summit of the ferris wheel. The ground awaiting him below could not have been more welcoming than at that moment. It was all so profound in a way which only Peter could ever understand. But it was also surprisingly easy. If he had known how effortless it was to have done such a thing, he would have let go of his pitiable existence a long time ago. The fact that he waited this long to redeem himself might even be considered a mistake on his part. Nevertheless, it was only human to make mistakes; the important thing was to learn from them.
7 Thanks From:
crow (07-01-2017), Druidic (07-01-2017), EssLab (07-01-2017), miguel1984 (07-01-2017), Nemonymous (07-06-2017), ToALonelyPeace (07-01-2017), Zaharoff (07-02-2017)
By Druidic on 07-01-2017

A very moving and well-written prose poem, Mr. Veech.
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By Mr. Veech on 07-02-2017

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
A very moving and well-written prose poem, Mr. Veech.
Thank you, Druidic. You're very kind.
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By Mr. Veech on 07-04-2017

I hope he doesn't mind me saying so, but there were a few suggestions Ibrahim proposed which I took to heart. It would be wrong of me not to mention that here.
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