Memories of Theme Parks
In the old, forgotten shadows behind the Haunted Woods lies
a land that once held laughter and the heavy, syrupy scent of sugar-powdered fried
dough. Neopets, young and old, darted between stalls and large, clanking contraptions,
chasing after friends and looking for the next thrill to experience. Tinny xylophone
music projected, barely audible under the raucous laughter and joyful screams.
At night, giant floodlights lit every surface for the wide eyes of expectant youths.
Now, the only light is from stars and a few half-burnt-out
neon signs, which hum in the quiet formerly filled by the clank-whir of whirling,
spinning, and diving machines.
Slowly, three shadows, trembling in the flicker
of the lights, emerge from between an old, crumbling building and an oversized
stall. The blue Hissi in the lead motions for her companions to follow.
"This is the place I told you about," she says.
"Eloroth showed me last week."
"I don't like it here, Shishanya," whispers a
tiny shivering Ghost Frillabon. "I heard the Deserted Fairground was haunted."
"Relax, Jeff," she replies. "You're a ghost anyway,
so why are you scared?"
"It's different," he pouts, coiling in a ball.
"Well we won't be going to the Fairground-just
near to it. This is the part most everyone has forgotten about. Besides, I'm
the babysitter so you have to do what I say."
The third in the group, a Christmas Doglefox,
grumbles, "I don't see why you get to be in charge. I'm older'n ya anyway."
"Maybe, Mina," answers Shishanya, "but you're
a petpet so you need looking after."
Shishanya leads the group past the outer ring
of stalls. Mina, her bushy green-and-white tail curled between her rear legs,
trails behind, growling, but Jeff stays as close as possible to Shishanya, slithering
in pace with her.
As she weaves around booths and gates, Shishanya
begins to speak in a hushed, dramatic tone, repeating the narrative she herself
only recently had learned.
"As you know," she explains, "just past the booths
on the far side of the abandoned park are the Deserted Fairgrounds. Now, the
fairgrounds are corporate owned, with a set, constant, price for each game.
The workers were hired by the owner to tend the booths."
Absorbed in the story, Jeff bumps into a stall,
squealing as old soda cans tumble down with a clatter. Mina sighs and rolls
her eyes at the young petpet, glaring about at her surroundings as she skulks
after her two companions.
"In the old park, however," continues Shishanya,
"every ride was privately owned and each owner could set admission as low or
high as he or she wanted. Sometimes this meant rides were overpriced by people
who didn't know the market, but most were fair. This was all before I was born,
but Eloroth - you should be paying attention, Mina; after all, she's your owner
- said some people would change their pricing at a whim, according to mood."
By this time they have walked a little over a
third of the way around the park and are approaching the back of the Deserted
Fairgrounds. The murmur of vendors advertising their games is just barely audible
over the distance.
Wiggling her tiny red nose, Mina exclaims, "Mmm,
custard!" and bolts to the rear entrance of a nearby building, snuffling and
digging at the door.
"No, Mina!" cries Shishanya. "That's the emergency
exit for Carnival of Terror! If you think an old, abandoned theme park is creepy,
wait until you have parachuting robot clowns throw pies at your face!"
Jeff whimpers and Mina slowly backs away from
the door. The tantalizing odor of cream-filled pies is easier to ignore now
that she's aware they are in fact weapons.
"Over here," urges Shishanya. "This is what I
really wanted to show you."
Her two smaller companions follow her gaze to
one of the many gated-in areas. Inside lie several thrill rides in a state of
disrepair. Closest is a rusted metal track. A few of the bars that formerly
had formed loops and spirals have fallen out, the unlinked ends angling forlornly
downward, as though depressed.
"Eloroth told me all about this place. 'It used
to be so beautiful,' she said. 'Our Mom built it when I was just a hatchling.
She didn't have many neopoints and had a low and slow income back then, but
she invested almost every point she earned into this place.
"'You've probably noticed the trophy tossed
in with all the rest of our junk in the garage. The one that says, "Third place
at Theme Parks!!" Well, I want you to know about this because it says a lot
about our Mom.
"'After all the time and neopoints she spent
on slowly building and improving her park, finally she was ready to open it.
With me cradled in one arm (remember, I was much smaller then!) and her admission
sign wedged under the other, she pushed her way through the crowd.
"'Barely a soul glanced her way as she strapped
the sign to her gate. After all, what was one more Theme Park in the already-present
plethora of rides? It was like a cup of water tossed into an ocean.
"'Unconcerned with the lack of customers,
she carefully buckled me into the safety harness, letting me ride again and
again until I tired of the ride. By the time I dismounted, a crowd - whispering
and nudging each other - had formed outside the entrance. Mom helped me down
the steps and then greeted her customers.
"'As she approached, a small Acara cried
out, "Is this a typo? There's no way that's correct!"
"'"It is, my friend," answered Mom. "My
rides are free to all: young or old; rich or poor."
"'Parents cheered and put away their wallets.
Children squealed and scrambled onto the rides. The other Theme Park operators…
well, many of them were none-too-pleased. But a wise Elephante neighboring her
saw opportunity in the impatient and frustrated children waiting in line for
their turns. He quickly ran out to a bulk discount store and loaded up on goodies.
"'Soon, he was back at his Theme Park with
pretty trinkets arranged on a table and a new sign that read "Free admission
with purchase." Many parents decided that they wanted a souvenir anyway and
that they would prefer the shorter wait.
"'Other vendors caught on and did the same,
or reversed it by giving a free souvenir with price of admission. My favorite
was a button that said, "I got the Freebie when I rode at Phoebe's." Mom bought
one for me even though technically she was a competitor.
"'It was exciting while it lasted, but eventually
the parks started closing down. Mom never told me why and I was very sad. But
before they closed, the people of Neopia gave awards to the best rides. There
was one incredible one: if you look to the right, Shishanya, past that splintered
banana stand, you can see it towering over the entire park. I didn't hear who
won second prize. Mom couldn't believe it when they gave her third place. Her
park was small compared to most others, but the townsfolk must have put a good
word in because of her free admittance policy.'
"I told Eloroth it was too bad the Theme Parks
were closed because I would have liked one of those buttons," Shishanya continues.
"She laughed and took me over to our Mom's old Ferris Wheel, which had managed
to survive the rust and decay that had taken the other rides. You can see; it's
still in good shape."
Shishanya gestures at the towering circle. She
then unlatches the panel over the control panels.
"Eloroth showed me how to operate it," she says.
"Let's go on a ride before we leave."
The two petpets secure themselves in a seat on
the great wheel. Shishanya activates it and then quickly flutters up to join
"So," says Mina, as they ascend above the diminishing
booths and rusted metal heaps, "Why d'ya think it shut down?"
Shishanya gazes over the immense park, imagining
it lit up in a flurry of activity, throngs of children below lined up like ants.
"I really can't say," she answers wistfully,
"but I think maybe because the operators realized that they were making more
points on souvenirs than they ever had on the rides. Most of them run stores
now, although a few have been hired by the Deserted Fairground to run games."
The three ride silently for a few minutes more.
Finally, Shishanya floats down and stops the ride, letting Mina and Jeff off.
"So," asks Shishanya, as they exit the park,
"What did you think?"
"It was great!" remarks Jeff. "I had so much
fun I forgot to be scared!"
Mina trots up beside them, her green-and-white
tail swishing high in the air. "Thank you," she says. "This was a good place
after all. I hope we can see it working again some day."
"Me too," Shishanya answers, latching the front
entrance behind them.