Mascot Purgatory…

evil raccoonThe amusement park called Dreamville had closed in the late 1960’s, and had perhaps been in its heyday in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Strangely, it had been built on the grounds of what had once been a graveyard; most of the graves had been relocated elsewhere, although a few had never been found, a fact which hadn’t stopped the park’s developers. Following the closure of the park, marketable items had been sold off, leaving behind the shells of game and refreshment stands and the metallic skeletons of carnival rides of an earlier generation.  While there was a protective gate and chain link fence surrounding the grounds, resourceful vandals had long since scaled it, and further trashed the remaining structures.

Having heard my father talk about Dreamville and working as a journalist for the Herald, an area newspaper, I sought to visit the deserted site for inspiration for an article on its past glories.  I found entrance through a trampled section of the neglected fence, and began to traverse the lonely grounds.  Weeds had run riot over the long neglected land, and the vandals had spray-painted assorted obscene and gang related graffiti wherever available surfaces could be found.  A mournful wind brought a chill with the coming dusk, and I withdrew a small flashlight from my pocket as I prepared to investigate surviving buildings further.

Now Dreamville had operated long before the advent of today’s electronics which make modern theme parks a reality, and had relied upon a variety of costumed mascots which strolled the park grounds to lure visitors in those simpler times.  Mostly animals, the mascots would play up to the children of park visitors, and offer photo opportunities.  I had heard that the mascots maintained a changing room in a sub-cellar of the Fun House, so I headed into that abandoned building, which was open at the front where guests once boarded small cars that propelled them through the structure.  Ghosts and monsters, laughable by today’s standards, would jump out at visitors as they traversed the fun house.  They were long gone, but as I went deeper into the building, I could discern in the beam of my flashlight a closed metal door, the faded lettering upon it reading, “Mascots Only.”

Approaching, I noticed that the door was secured by an ancient padlock hanging on a slender rusted hasp.  The door had remained secure from violation over the many years, but its integrity had apparently not been tested recently.  Holding the lock in my hands, I gave it a tug.  The lock held firm, but the heavily-rusted hasp gave way, giving me access to the entrance.  The hinges of the door groaned slightly as I slowly swung it open, training the beam of my flashlight inside and then entering with some trepidation.

The interior of the mascot’s locker was a time capsule whose contents had remained untouched since the time of the park’s closing decades before.  Mascot costumes hung on hooks attached to the wall, although some were in rumpled piles on the floor, unceremoniously dumped there when the fabric supporting their placement rotted and could no longer sustain the costume’s weight.  The colors of the costumes had also changed as the dyes they were colored with had deteriorated; they were never intended to be the freakish hues that they were now.

I carefully picked up one of the mascot costumes from its hook with one hand, holding my flashlight in the other.  The outfit was dusty and discolored with small spots of mildew here and there, and it bore a musty, unpleasant odor.  The suit had allowed its wearer to impersonate a lion at one time, the mane on the head still clearly discernible.  The large head of the costume seemed unusually heavy and off-balance; I cradled my flashlight under my upper arm to free both my hands to hold the outfit aloft to better examine it.  The face of the lion almost opposite my own, I gazed into the staring eye sockets.  In the indirect light of my flashlight, I thought I saw a hint of something white within them.  There was a faint sound within the head, as of something slightly scraping as it moved within.  I turned the head of the lion slightly at an angle so as to peer up the neck opening into the head itself…

…and freed by the movement, a human skull slipped through the neck opening, brushed against the side of my body, and thunked to the floor, the jaw detaching upon impact and skating sway several feet further. I screamed and dropped my flashlight, which clattered to the floor and went out upon impact.

Panicking and with madness dancing in my brain, I dropped the lion suit and went to my knees, groping in complete darkness with my hands for the flashlight.  Surely it could not have gone far…at last, my fingers closed on the metallic cylindrical shape of the flashlight.  I pounded its sides to restore the connection, and finally a dim beam again shown forth from it.  The beam fell upon the skull, its empty eye sockets staring directly into mine.

I gasped, and sprung to my feet.  My breathing ragged, I began to step slowly backwards towards the door, seeking to escape the insanity that I had found.  I focused the beam of my flashlight higher, and saw something impossible happening.- -One of the mascot costumes was slowly arising from the floor!  The form swelled up gradually, as if being inflated from within.  Once it had assumed full height and shape, the figure appeared to move almost imperceptibly, as if breathing.  I was looking at a human-sized raccoon, one which regarded me as intently as I did it.  I stood transfixed by the sight.

The raccoon, now fully human height, cocked its head slightly at me.  A grating sound came from within the figure, the rasping of vocal organs attempting to speak which had long been silenced.   After making some guttural, inhuman sounds, the presence before me began to produce recognizable speech.

“Do you want to see me remove my head?,” the thing croaked.

 Although I instantly and vigorously began to shake my head in the negative, the raccoon dug its claws deeply into its neck and begin to tear.  There was a rending sound of rotten cloth and artificial fur tearing apart, together with a more disturbing, unnatural sound of flesh or what may have once been flesh being ripped and torn asunder.

I gasped and willed my legs to move, but they seemed frozen, riveted in place by the horrible sight that was before me.  Worst of all was the blood that was welling out of the wounds that the inhuman thing was inflicting upon itself.  The blood, so much of it was flowing…and in the weakening beam of my flashlight, it appeared thick and almost black in color!

My legs finally responded to my mental command to flee, and I wheeled about and made for the locker room’s exit.  I hastily rushed through the portal and slammed the rusting metal door closed.  I then continued to run, my legs pumping and my heart pounding until I had retraced my earlier steps and exited the outer perimeter of the park.  I did not look back, throwing myself behind the wheel of my car and spinning my wheels in my haste to get away from this portal of hell… Dreamville was a nightmare.

I do not to this day know whether the thing that I had unleashed ventured beyond the portal of the mascot’s locker room, or whether the closed door itself would have restrained it; perhaps it required a living spectator to sustain its existence, just like the mascots had a reality only within the confines of the park.  Had evil spirits or entities somehow possessed these costumes?  I don’t know, and never wish to find out.  The outer hasp of the mascot’s locker was broken, and so the lock which had sealed the room was now useless.  I do, however, know now why they had padlocked a small room in a forgotten, long abandoned amusement park…

…it was to keep people like myself out, and things like I had found in

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Black-Eyed Girl

black-eyed-kids

The knock came to my door late, far later than a girl of her age should have been out by herself.  Her face was veiled by the hooded sweatshirt that she wore, which combined with her downcast glance made it impossible to see her features clearly.  “Let me in,” she said in a flat voice, not raising her head to address me.

Participating in neighborhood watch, I held the door open.  “Sure, come on in,”  I responded.  “Is there something wrong?,” I asked, concerned.  “Is someone after you?  Are you being followed?”  Bullies were not unknown in the neighborhood, and reports had also been made of strangers trying to lure children into their cars; I thought that this might be such a situation.

The girl swept on in.  “No, I’m just really tired,” she said softly.  With that, she made to the couch in my living room, lying down upon it and curling into a semi-fetal position.  I could see her face to some degree now peeking out from under her still raised hood, but her eyes were closed.  Her skin appeared uncommonly pale and devoid of color.  The poor thing must have been exhausted, for she appeared to fall asleep almost immediately.  Questions I supposed could wait until later; it was most important for now that she was safe from whatever had driven her to my door.  Distant flashes of lightning appeared along the horizon; a storm was coming.

“Honey, do you know this girl?,” I called to my spouse, Claire.  She entered the living room from the kitchen, and we surveyed the small figure on the couch together.  She looked like dozens of other kids that were about; faded and torn jeans, running shoes, and a hoodie.  Her pale skin and black-painted nails might have marked her as one of the goth kids about, who tended to keep to themselves and their chosen peers and appear rather spooky to anyone else.

“No, I don’t know her, Ron,” concluded Claire.  “Should we call the police, or the school authorities?,” she asked.

“Probably not yet,” I decided, “not before we get a chance to talk to her a bit, and see what the problem is.” 

“Do you suppose she’s drunk or on drugs?,” speculated my better half.

“Sure hope not, but these days anything’s possible,” I replied.

“She’s sleeping.  Let’s give her a few minutes, and grab a bite to eat before dinner gets cold,” suggested Claire.

I nodded in agreement.  It had been another long, hard day, and I was hungry.  We settled at the dining room table, occasionally casting a glance in the girl’s direction.  She moved but little from her prone position as we ate.  Good thing that we had gotten the girl inside; the wind was up, and rain was beginning.

“Good dinner!,” I complimented my wife, patting my belly for emphasis.  “Say Hon, I’m really tired.  I’m going to lie down for a  few minutes.  Keep an eye on the girl for me, and call me when when she wakes up,” I asked.

“Will do,” Claire agreed.

Whether it was from overeating or my hard day, I was soon soon sleeping soundly, and for longer than I intended.  When I woke up in an hour, I felt disoriented and confused, as if I had slept through the night although it was still dark.  I had a strong, almost overwhelming feeling that something was wrong, terribly wrong.  Still groggy, I staggered to my feet and called out my wife’s name, but there was no answer. 

Growing increasingly concerned, I tried a light switch only to find that the lights were off; the damn electrical storm must have knocked out the power.  Still calling out her name, I made my way into the darkened hall, stubbing my toe painfully.  Cursing, I momentarily turned my attention to my throbbing foot, looking up a second later to see a dark figure standing in the blackened hall.  “Claire, thank God!,” I said through my pain.  “What’s going on?,” I asked, confused and seeking answers.

“You’re hurt,” she said.  “Let me help you,” she offered as she came close and extended a hand.  Thunder boomed outside; the storm must have been directly over us. 

I seized Claire’s extended hand and began to straighten up.  “I’m fine, really,” I began to say, freezing in mid-sentence as a sensation like a hundred tiny needles jolted my hand.  Instinctively I tried to pull my hand away, but it seemed to be transfixed, as if pinned by the needles that I could feel but not see.

“Claire, what…” I began to ask, being interrupted by a loud clap of thunder and flash of lightning that illuminated Claire’s face, although it was no longer my wife.  In the momentary illumination provided by the lightning, I could see that her features were pale and fixed, almost waxy.  Behind her in the hallway stood the hooded girl that we had taken in.  Most terribly, both sets of eyes which now regarded me were as black as night, as if the darkness itself had penetrated them. 

The girl regarded me with eyes as black as slices of night.  “I’ve come to collect you,” she said evenly without expression in a chilling voice devoid of humanity.

Insanity gripped my mind then, and I struggled desperate to pull away and flee.  The hand which held me was strong, however, and the invisible needles which penetrated me had injected some kind of paralyzing agent.  My panic was insufficient to overcome the potent drug which quickly seeped into my mind and obliterated consciousness.

I’m awake now in the dark coolness of this mortuary drawer, my mind again functioning but my body unable to move or respond.  I pray that I can somehow communicate to the mortician that I live before the embalming fluid enters my veins, and I’m plunged into the eternal darkness where the black-eyed girl awaits to tear my soul apart…