The Ride

by Angela Kempe

“This is going to be fun!”

“I hate long lines.”

“It’s only seventy minutes.”

Vanessa looked down at the kids.

“Seventy minutes is a long time,” she said, cynically.

The kids were behaving for the moment, but other children were already climbing along the fence, sitting on the railing, and wreaking havoc, and she knew it was only a matter of time before hers joined in.

“Don’t you dare!” she warned.

JJ looked up at his mother and smiled maliciously.

“Just listen to the music,” Kenny said, trying to calm her.

“What is this?”

“This is the happiest place on Earth. It’s dwarf music!”

Vanessa listened to the simple melody shouting against the noise of the crowd. It was giving her a migraine, but she decided to drop the subject. The line slowly winded into a cool cavern, built from cement, but painted and carved to resemble wood. The noise of the crowd washed over her. The kids busied themselves by playing with the game consoles scattered throughout the line. Vanessa could hear the faint sound of screaming filtering through the noisy crowd.

“It must be a scary ride,” she reported.

“Why do you say that?”

“I can hear screaming.”

Kenny tried to listen, but was distracted by a mining game. He tried to match up the jewels on the touch screen and then confessed, “I hope it isn’t much longer. I have to use the bathroom.”

Vanessa peered ahead. The line only bent into darkness.

“I think that time was wrong. It’s been more than an hour and I can’t see the end.”

“I really have to pee!”

Kenny and Vanessa searched for the end of the line.

“Just get out of line.”

“I don’t see an exit. Plus I waited too long. It’s been two hours. I’m going on this ride!”

“Mommy, I’m tired,” Arianna complained, tugging at Vanessa’s shirt.

“Just a little bit longer.”

“Carry me.”

“I can’t carry you. Walk.”

Arianna sat down defiantly.

“Get up.”

“Carry me!”

Vanessa tried lifting her heavy body. Then gave up, exhausted.

“Get up!”

“We’re almost there. Can’t you hear that?”

The screams were getting louder.

The line inched forward. Vanessa left Arianna sitting against the cold wall.

“Bye!”

But the threat didn’t phase her. She nudged herself over to her mother on her bottom.

“Hear that?” a hefty man turned back towards them.

Kenny chimed in.

“I heard this is worth the wait.”

“It’d better be worth the wait,” said the stranger.

“Okay, I have to go.”

He was referring to peeing.

“Just wait a little longer,” Vanessa begged.

“I’m going to pee my pants!”

“You can hold it, please! Don’t let me alone with these kids!”

Kenny stuffed his hands in his jean pockets, defeated.

“Fine.”

The line folded and twisted through the cold cavern, descending deeper and deeper underground. The children began first; complaining, crying. Then the adults in front of them started hollering down the deep tunnel, “Hey, how much longer?”

Kenny and the man decided to take a walk out of line to see how far it actually went. Vanessa waited another hour, carrying Arianna on her back as Jackson trailed behind them angrily. Then finally they returned.

“We gotta get out of here!” Kenny said.

Vanessa recognized fear in his voice, but didn’t understand.

“Why?”

“We walked for an hour. The line doesn’t end! I finally peed in the dwarf creak.”

“What do you mean, doesn’t end?”

Her eyes were already glazed over from exhaust. She was having trouble comprehending.

“Let’s go!” the man instructed his family.

They tried rushing passed them. Then stopped abruptly, as if they had slammed into something. They put their hands up in the air. Vanessa read the terror in their wide horrified eyes. Saw their skin drain of its color.

“What?” she asked.

The man pushed and knocked at something hard.

“There’s a wall here!”

His wife started crying. She dropped to the cold cement like Arianna.

“What?” Vanessa said, trying to pull herself out of the nightmare.

Kenny tried to take JJ, but also crashed into the invisible wall. He tried to see it, but there was nothing there to see.

“We can’t go back. We can move forward, but we can’t go back!”

Desperation sharpened his voice.

He beat against the air, the people behind them oblivious, nudging them forward in a daze.

“Help!” Vanessa screamed.

The kids cried. Panic set in. Everyone was screaming. Propelled by some mysterious force. Trapped in the real ride; A steep winding descent into madness.

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Red Roses, Red Roses

by Angela Kempe

Sandy dug her toes into the damp soil of her garden as she bent towards her largest rose. The cool mud mushed between her bare toes and stuck there, heavy and wet. She liked the feel of the earth below her feet and thought it made the day a little more perfect, and the rose a little more special as she reached for its soft edge, gently lifting the rose up towards her nose.

Red roses didn’t have the most fragrant smell, but their smell was still distinct and beautiful. To her, it represented an accomplishment of having cared for her garden all year long. It reminded her of her family and that the most beautiful things in life are often the most simple and overlooked.

The light changed. She turned her neck to see if it was an afternoon storm cloud rolling in. She thought she could hear the crack of thunder and smell something peculiar in the air, like burnt BBQ or a wild fire starting up on the distant hill. She wasn’t sure how to place the smell, it came so quickly. Too hard to classify or make sense of. And then there was darkness as the asteroid struck down hard on her, releasing a shock wave a mile in diameter, melting poor Sandy and all her roses.

The Copernicus Belt

By Angela Kempe

Amy clenched her seatbelt as the space shuttle accelerated into the Copernicus Belt.

“Why don’t you slow down a little?”

She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing. Focused on easing the tension in her face so that her migraine wouldn’t overwhelm her.

“Just trying to make good time,” he said, swerving between the giant rocks.

Amy was sure she’d be sick. Maybe she’d faint. She wasn’t sure which one would happen first, the fainting or the vomiting from the pain in her head. If only he knew how much she hated his flying. Didn’t he know? Wasn’t he at all concerned that your chance of getting into an accident near the Copernicus Belt was one accident per five years?

Still, the space shuttle whisked between astroids. One of the astroids near her window grew in size until it became frighteningly close and she thought it would hit her, so she closed her eyes and succumbed to feeling her body sway left and right. She tried to center herself in her seat. She tried to imagine she was somewhere else to give her a few more moments before she passed out from fear.

“You’re not even trying to slow down!”

“But we’re getting there so fast! Okay, fine. I’ll slow down.”

Her husband slowed the shuttle down to 12 speed and a few other space shuttles blasted passed them.

Amy was satisfied for the moment, but before she could smooth out her space suit, her husband sighed and accelerated again.

She knew she had a problem with space flight. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply as he weaved between rocks. But Amy was tired of being scared. Flying to their Mom’s planet was becoming a real problem. She decided to force her eyes open and try enjoying the ride a little. Anyway, after eleven years of marriage maybe she could trust her husband and his driving.

Her body clinched under the pressure of the speed as she urged her eyes open.

Open your eyes dammit and enjoy this! 

Then, suddenly she saw it.

Oh, the irony of being right. But, at least her headache was gone.