The mechanical sound of Space Mountain keeps on buzzing, whirring, in spite of everything. Lights blink off and on, twinkle and flash, casting an eerie glow upon her pale face. One couldn’t hear her deep, struggling breaths, even if they trained their ears toward it. The racket of carefree laughter and shrieking is sharp, making her head ache and her chest constrict. Somewhere in the distance, Buzz Lightyear counts downs until liftoff, his voice sharply proceeded by another chorus of joyous screams. As another train passes by like a car speeding down the freeway, she ducks, instinctively covering her head with her arms. It is a comforting reflex, but it would do no good. The impact of one of those deadly coasters would be instantly fatal, and all of it would have gone to waste.
There is a hazy smell of vanilla, floating delicately through the heavy air, origin unknown. Cold sweat drips down the young girl’s brow, eventually falling into her tangle of blonde hair. She tastes metal against her tongue from where she’s bitten her lip a little too hard in anxiety.
Somewhere in the pitch darkness, something moves. She spins frantically, trying to pinpoint where the shift had come from. Could it be that she was going insane? There was to be a minute and thirty second interval in between every cart passing through the region she was creeping through. Maybe she had just lost track of time…
And then there is searing pain in her left arm, just above her elbow. Fingers crush her flushed skin. She cries out meekly, and her bare feet skid on the concrete floor as she tries to run away but is held back like a common animal. Her flowery dress slides easily along the slippery slope beneath her body.
“It’s over,” a phantom voice behind her sighs, exhausted. She hangs limp from his grip, whimpering, and his hold loosens slightly.
There, she rips her arm out of his hands. The sharp pop of her joint slipping out of its socket coincides with the slam of her shivering knees onto the freezing concrete. Her sobs bounce off the walls, filling the opaque darkness with the song of her panic. She crawls on her hands and knees, curling in on herself, a tangle of limbs, as she tries to find a place to hide.
“Just give up already.” Her pursuer sounds as desperate as her. “Turn on the lights!” he yells to an invisible ally.
She’s given half a second to pause in her panicked scampering before Space Mountain is flooded with blinding fluorescent light. The sound of her scream echoes painfully before fading away, leaving a ringing resonance in the ears of all who hear it. The bodies strapped into the metal machines flying around her are still screaming, but in a different key — it’s an off-sounding melody, a cacophony of horrification as they catch glimpses of a ragged, bruised, and barefoot girl scrambling away.
The man drops to his stomach, barely missing getting smashed by a passing car. On the floor, he slithers toward her, blood trickling across his forehead where he’d hit his head on a stray pipe. It stains his bared teeth and leaves a morbid trail to follow. The blood only smears as he crawls on hands and knees like a stalking predator.
“You dug this grave yourself!” he howls at her. Her sobs get heavier until the world closes in on her lungs.
Suddenly, his hand darts out and wraps around her ankle. He yanks, dragging her backward. Her fingers reach out and claw the floor but there is no traction. She slides right toward him. When she is close enough, he places both of his monstrous hands below either side of her petite jaw, blocking her esophagus. “Give me the toy,” he growls. She turns her face, squirming away, but the sound of his voice only goes directly into her ear. She buries her eyes into her periwinkle dress, her tears drowning the soft cotton fabric. This wasn’t how the mission was supposed to go.
“Please,” she whispers raspily. With trembling fingers, she reaches into her brown leather satchel and presents the man with a small, dirty plush toy, the uncanny likeness of Minnie Mouse. “But why?” the young girl gasps as her releases her throat to snatch it away. “It’s just a toy!”
The man only looks at her with a crazed grin, his eyes sparkling with a glint of hazel insanity and then stands with the black and red toy clutched in his hand. He throws her to the ground when she tries to follow him, and he walks toward the exit with the ease of a man on fire. The lights turn off, leaving the girl in pitch darkness to make her way through a mass of glowing lights and buzzing death machines.
Just that morning, a stranger had knocked on the man’s door with blood on his hands and half a brick of cocaine in his backpack. The stranger had been wearing a suit the color of mahogany, and his dirty blonde curls had been combed back neatly with pomade. He handed the man the drugs with judging eyes, knowing that death would be paying him a visit soon if he did not do this right.
“It must be at the Marina Del Rey at exactly six o’clock. Any earlier and you won’t get paid. Any later and you won’t get to live,” he had been told. “And do not let this get into anyone else’s hands. If the cartel finds out, your neck can kiss the rest of your body good-bye.”
So he opened up the small plush toy at the seams and placed the drugs inside. He’d sown the toy back together and returned it to its rightful shelf, just behind a couple of others, knowing that the whiny brats who would soon be screaming through would beg their mothers for the life-size version rather than the cheap one. What he didn’t notice was the tiny girl behind him, eyeing the toy with hopeful eyes and an empty past.
Instead, he’d walked past her, smelling of secret cigarettes and that faint smell of sugar that seems to follow Disneyland’s employees, wafting up from underground. It had only taken a second before the chill down his spine forced him to give the girl a second glance. Her fingers had been wrapped around the plush toy with the determination of a murderer. So the chase began, and it’s there, in the confines of Space Mountain, that he ends it.
He is able to get to the Marina Del Rey with five minutes to spare. He waits with fidgeting fingers, tapping the steering wheel to an imaginary beat, the toy sitting upright in the passenger seat. At 5:59, he nervously steps out of his car and walks toward the dock. As he emerges, one man dressed in a midnight-colored suit appears from a lavish, elegant boat tied to the damp wooden docks.
He stops jerkily, the blood draining from his cheeks. They stare at each other for an eternity of a second before the other man nods slightly. With a little more confidence in his strut, he takes a step toward the boat.
Suddenly, there is an aching pain in the side of his head like no other. He groans in surprise, and when his fingers touch the origin of his unexpected migraine, his entire hand comes away wet and stained a dark cherry red. He is agonizingly aware of blood trickling through his dark brown hair down the side of his face, contorted in pain. He crumples to the floor and never opens his eyes again.
Several meters away, an older man with a streak of grey hair and an expensive designer suit steps out of a sleek golden Cadillac, followed by a young girl dressed in a lilac floral dress with combed blonde hair and bruised knees. He picks up the toy at the dead man’s side and pulls out the bag of pearly white powder from where the stuffing had opened slightly.
“Thanks, daddy,” the girl says. She hugs the toy and returns it to her brown leather satchel, where it belonged. (1,373 words)