Twisted Fairy Tale: A Quick Peck by Connie B. Dowell

Welcome to the 8th annual #SpookyShowcase! The Spooky Showcase celebrates the dark minds of creatives around the world through short stories and artistic creations that are dark in nature, macabre, or horror themed.

This year’s theme is Twisted Fairy Tales. Expect twisted legends, creepy creations, and dark fairy tales that will keep you up at night. Visit each day in the month of October for a scare. The master schedule is here.

A Quick Peck, original artwork by Connie B. Dowell

A Quick Peck

By Connie B. Dowell

Lia pointed up the hill to a cluster of dark, looming structures. Squinting in the moonlight, I could just make out the outline of a rollercoaster among the buildings.

“That’s where we’re going,” Lia said. “Happily Ever After Park.”

“It doesn’t look open,” I said–and immediately regretted it. Of course, it wasn’t open. It had to be after twelve by this time.

Laughter erupted around me from my three potential friends, Lia, Jacob, and Sam.

“Not for a looooong time,” said Sam. “That place closed at least ten years ago. That’s what my mom said.”

I rubbed my arms, wishing I’d brought a jacket. An abandoned theme park. At midnight. Perfect. But I straightened up, pretended the cold didn’t bug me. “Alright. Let’s do this.” I followed them up the dark road, through the long shadows of the trees. We followed the bobbing beam of light from Lia’s cell phone, purple darkness surrounding us on all sides.

I’d been to six different schools since kindergarten. Six times to be the new kid. I knew the drill. Find the best clique, do whatever weird thing they want you to do, never show you’re scared. Do that and you sail through until the next move when you have to do it all over again. It was a lot, but I had it down. This night would be simple. Lucky number seven, right?

Sam hadn’t been kidding. As we got closer, it was clear the place had been closed for ages. Rusted fences, whole trees growing through cracks in the asphalt of the parking lot. The roller coaster I’d seen from a distance looked pretty rickety. It had to be rusted, too. I wondered if it would fall apart soon.

“They say this place is haunted,” said Lia with a grin in my direction. “Some dude who was fixing one of the rides. Down in the gears or something. Then somebody turned it on and…” She pounded one open palm with the opposite fist. “Squish!”

It was all I could do not to roll my eyes. “Yeah, right.”

“It’s true!” Jacob piped up, not a trace of a smirk on his face. He had been much quieter that night than I’d seen him at school. “That’s why they had to close the park.”

Says who? I thought.

As we approached the gap in the fence—a large hole, where boards had rotted away—we passed tall poles in the parking lot, lamps gone dark. But it made me wonder if there were more than old lights at the top. Sure, this place was run down and left to fall apart, but somebody owned it. Could there be security cameras?

Lia spotted me peering up at them. “Getting scared, Edie?” she asked. Sam chuckled beside her.

I snorted. “Of course not.”

We left the parking lot, wading through the tall grass toward the gap in the fence. The air smelled like leaves and old wood, with a hint of rain from the storm that happened that afternoon.  I took one last look behind me. It would be bad enough if my parents realized I was out, but if there were cameras, alarms? I didn’t want to think about the trouble we’d be in. I took a deep breath of the woody air. So I wouldn’t think about it. I lifted my legs high and stepped over the stubs of rotten fence, the first one over. Lia and Sam followed close behind.

“You coming, Jacob?” Lia asked, hands on her hips.

Jacob gave a little jump. “I’m coming, I’m coming.” He stepped over.

We were in. No alarms so far. Maybe I had nothing to worry about.

I turned and stared at the crumbling rides in the moonlight, the merry-go-round, the bumper cars, the rollercoaster. “Which one do I have to get on?” I hoped they weren’t going to ask me to climb up the rollercoaster. I’d done some bold things to join the right pack. In third grade, I put a frog in the soup pot on Brunswick Stew day. In sixth grade, I walked right up to the most popular boy and asked him to kiss me, and he was so surprised that he did. But I’d have to draw the line at breaking my neck.

Lia placed a hand on her chest. “We wouldn’t ask you to climb up anything really high! You’d fall for sure. We’re going there.” She pointed toward the castle-like building up the hill. “All you have to do is kiss the mannequin they’ve got for their Sleeping Beauty.” She chuckled. “Wake her up.”

“Really?” It felt too easy. This had to be a trap. Maybe there were other kids waiting up there to scare me. But it wasn’t like I could back out now.

“She’ll come to life for the right person,” said Sam. Jacob just stared at the castle and shivered.

“Let’s go,” I said.

We walked on the cracked pavement, shaped to look like cobblestone, through the park. We passed the merry-go-round full of fantasy animals, like unicorns, sphynxes, and dragons. Now the paint had peeled away from most of them, and leaves piled on the platform. We all flinched as a skittering sound came from the leaf piles, but nothing came out.

We also passed one of those rides that lifts you high in the air and drops you down, called Humpty Dumpty’s Great Fall, and the bumper cars, which the park had called Kissing Frogs. The cars were still there, falling apart slowly. Each one was painted with the face of either a princess or a frog, and the floor was vaguely blue and green, like under the dirt it was painted to look like a pond with lily pads.

We also went by a gift shop called Cinderella’s Cobbler.  I peeked in the window, but it was almost totally empty. Not even cash registers. Just one, lonely, see-through shoe lay on the floor.

Finally, we stood before the castle.

The park people had put up fake thorns, pieces of painted wood along the sides of the path. But in however many years it had been, real thorns—blackberry bushes and other poky things—had popped up, some of them in the cracks on the pavement. We had to step over and around them. I felt the thorns tug on my pant legs. I hoped I wouldn’t have holes in my clothes to explain later.

We walked through the fake-stone archway into the castle itself. Sam yelped. Something sticky clung to my face. I gasped and waved it away. “Yuck.” I spit and wiped the spiderweb from my face. Lia did the same. Jacob jumped and picked web off his clothes. Sam brushed every inch of himself, saying, “Is it in my hair? Is it in my hair?”

After we were sure that no spiders were actually on us—just web—we moved on to the ride itself. It was much darker inside the castle, as there was a roof. I looked up, but in the deep darkness, I couldn’t see what it looked like. The castle had a few windows letting in streams of faint moonlight, but mostly we had to rely on Lia’s flashlight app. The cars for the ride still sat on the rusted track, and there seemed to be a wide walkway on either side. This was no rollercoaster.

“It’s not steep at all to walk up,” said Lia. “Seems like the ride was little-kid-friendly.”

So, Lia had been here before. Was that because she was setting up a prank for me? Or was this a dare all three of them had completed at some point?

We moved along the platform, following the track.  The beam of light illuminated the painted walls. Murals depicted the story of Sleeping Beauty. First, the evil fairy cursed her as a baby. Then, she grew up in the woods. Then, she found the spinning wheel. I guessed they probably had the story playing over the loudspeaker back in the day when the ride was running.

At last, we reached Sleeping Beauty’s bedroom.  A large window by the bed meant the lighting was better here. Good thing. The spider webs were really bad here, but at least I could see well enough to wipe them away before they smacked me in the face. The Sleeping Beauty mannequin lay in a bed, covered in a sheet that looked like a moldy tarp. Standing beside the bed was a rotted, wooden cut-out of a prince, held up with poles and gears. I guessed he would bend down and “kiss” her when the riders came by.

“Let’s do this,” I said, striding to the bed. A quick peck and we could get out. This would all be over.

I stared down at Sleeping Beauty. She was surprisingly lifelike. Her long, blonde hair, coated in dust and leaves, spilled across the bed. She even had blonde eyelashes and blonde eyebrows. Not painted on. Actual doll hair. If she hadn’t had grime on her face, I’d have thought it was a real sleeping person.  I hunted for the least dirty spot to kiss.

“You gotta do it on the lips, Edie,” Lia said. “Wake her up.”

Fine. I didn’t want to look scared. I straightened up. “Hello, princess,” I said. “I may not be your prince, but I’m here to say ‘Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey.’”

I bent down like a chicken and gave her a peck right on her moldy lips.

I straightened back up, wiping my own lips, and held my arms wide. “Tada. One princess kissed.”

Lia raised her eyebrows in approval. Sam and Jacob nodded. I did it. I was in.

Then, their faces fell. They let out a chorus of gasps. My heart sped up as I saw movement below me.

Calm down, Edie, I told myself. They just rigged the thing to scare you. Somebody’s pressing a button. Then, I looked down.

No mannequin, puppet, whatever, could move like that. The princess sat up, yawned, and stretched. She brushed the leaves from her hair, and her eyes met mine. “Finally,” she said in a croaky voice. “Somebody woke me up.”

I felt my jaw drop. I looked to the spot where my new “friends” had been standing, but they were gone. Their footsteps echoed as they ran back down the platform.

The princess pulled the tarp blanket off herself and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. She cleared her throat and spoke more clearly. “You know that dream where you’re taking a test in a class you never studied for and then you realize you’re in your underwear?” she said. “It was decades of that. Over and over.” She looked around the dingy room. “No chance of coffee, huh?”

It took a moment of her staring at me before I realized she was waiting on me to say something. “No. Sorry.”

“Oh, well.” She stood and patted the wooden, cut-out prince on the head. “You weren’t much good, were you?” She turned back to me. “Thank you, seriously. I thought no one would ever wake me. I hope it doesn’t take nearly as long for you.”

I was so busy taking it all in that it took me a moment to catch what she’d said. “For me?” What could that mean? A wave of exhaustion swept over me. No.

The princess’s grimy forehead wrinkled in concern. “You should probably get in the bed now, before it happens. You don’t want to fall over on the floor.”

“Before wha—” but I couldn’t finish. Another wave of exhaustion swept over me, a tiredness deeper than I had ever felt. My knees buckled.

“Whoa-whoa!” The princess caught me and helped me into the bed. She pulled the moldy cover over me. “There you go. That’s better. You went down faster than I remember it happening to me. Nighty-night, whoever you are.”

I had to keep my eyes open. My eyelids kept wanting to shut, but I had to fight it. The other kids would come back soon, wouldn’t they? Or someone would?

My eyelids fluttered. I tried to cry out, to ask the princess to call my parents, but my mouth couldn’t move, my head couldn’t rise from the bed.

My eyelids fluttered again. The ceiling was impossibly dark. Invitingly dark. I heard the princess walk away muttering about coffee again.

My eyes closed.

About the Creator

Connie B. Dowell writes historical and modern cozy mysteries and nonfiction for writers, with plans to write and illustrate children’s fiction in the future. She hosts the Book Echoes podcast on the writing life and edits for indie authors. When not making books, Connie drinks far too much coffee and plays violin badly.

Find more of her fiction at https://conniebdowell.com and her podcast at https://bookechoes.com .

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