(1 of 2. Originally posted on September 16, 2022 for the prompt “Theme Park.”)
(Once you finish this one, you can read part 2 here.)
Tendrils of fog seeped through the frame of the roller coaster, backlit by a full moon. Emily pushed the heavy cart ahead of her into the park, so it wouldn’t run over the black lace train of her royal goth dress. She passed under a sign that read “Welcome to Halloween Town. Fun. Family. Monsters.” Muttering shadows coalesced around her, slinking along the edges of the moonlight with the soft rustle of wings and the scrape of claws.
Emily picked up a crowbar and used it to crack open the crate inside the cart, releasing the odor of entrails and spoiled meat. She dropped the crowbar and picked up a crimson-shaded lantern. The warm red light revealed a small crowd of beasts and twisted human forms.
“Sorry, this is all I could get.” Emily waved a hand at the coffin-sized crate. “A few leftovers from the slaughterhouse across town. We’ve had a couple of lean years in a row, and we’re out of funds. But if we hang on a few more weeks, the October season should be better this year.”
The creatures gathered around the crate, each taking a few mouthfuls before stepping back to make room for others.
Emily’s dark lips curved in a smile at their restraint. “Even if we earn more this October, I’d like to consider opening for special events the rest of the year, to help us through the off-season. If any of you have ideas, feel free to share.”
Suggestions flowed in a steady stream of guttural voices and growls. “Birthday parties for the elderly.” “Goth weddings.” “Corporate sponsorship, team-building exercises.” “Raves.” “Plague party.” Silence dropped.
“Sorry.” Jay gripped his dirt-crusted shovel with corpse-white fingers, looking back at the ten and a half pairs of gleaming red eyes that stared at him. “Too soon?”
“There’sss no need to open the whole park,” A hooded figure glided out of the shadows with reptilian grace. A hint of glistening fangs flashed as he spoke. “We need only open the Haunted Housssse, by appointment. We can advertisssse a general event venue, with exssstra charge for sssstaff performanccccesss. We can accommodate any kind of event that people may requessst, for a sssmall hourly fee.”
“Excellent point, Kevin. We should do that.” Emily turned to the group. “Everyone, this is our newest staff member, Kevin the Poisoner. Siren Sarah, can you find him some green makeup? I only have black and purple. We need to make him look a bit less…realistic. We want exquisitely frightened guests, not panicked ones.
“To get you started, we have a few ground rules,” Emily turned back to Kevin, lifting a single black pearl fingernail to emphasize her words. “Rule number one. No. Eating. Guests.”