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Claire and the Coaster of Terror


by dennykins

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“Sorry kid, you gotta be a centimetre taller to ride the Coaster of Terror. Maybe try the merry-go-round? Lots of little Usuls like it, this ride might be a bit scary for you.”

     Claire stared at the ride operator in disbelief and frustration, before rolling her eyes and turning away.

     As an Usul who was somewhat on the shorter side, Claire was used to these kinds of comments. After all, she’d heard them all her life. Brad, a Kyrii who lived next door and was a few years older than her, was always making up new nicknames for her that involved some variation on the short theme. But this year, at least, she had hoped she would finally be tall enough to put an end to these comments, once and for all. With a heavy heart she set off back home.

     Claire’s house was directly opposite a very large park. Each year, at least for as long as Claire could remember, the park would play host to a travelling carnival – kind of like the Deserted Fairground but, well, not deserted. For a few days every Spring, the otherwise sleepy park came alive with screams of exhilaration and delight, as Neopets of all ages enjoyed the various attractions the carnival brought with it. The Coaster of Terror was one of the more popular rides. It featured intense drops and multiple loops, hitting top speeds that Claire could only dream of – which, due to her unfortunate height, was hitherto the only way she had been able to experience it: in her dreams.

     When Claire was younger, she would lie in bed at night and listen to the sounds of people older and taller than her trying rides that she couldn’t wait to try herself. As she got older and (slightly) taller, she’d had the opportunity to try just about every daring activity on offer in Neopia.

     She’d climbed to the summit of Terror Mountain, explored the dark caverns of Moltara and base jumped in Tyrannia with the Ugga Drop Crew. But still, her goal of trying every attraction at the carnival just across the road eluded her, the Coaster of Terror standing stubbornly in the way.

     Claire went to bed that night disappointed in the knowledge that tomorrow the carnival would be packed up and shipped off to some other corner of Neopia, which meant she would have to wait an entire year before her chance to ride the Coaster of Terror came by again. And she just couldn’t wait that long.

     -------

     At 2 in the morning, screams rang out through the darkness and Claire bolted upright in her bed. They seemed to be coming from the direction of the carnival, she realised, but it would have closed hours ago. Claire didn’t hesitate. She jumped out of bed and ran straight to the carnival to discover the cause of the commotion.

     Getting into the carnival after it had closed was no challenge for someone with Claire’s resumé. She deftly scaled the chain-link fence and gracefully dropped down to the other side. Only once she landed did she notice a rather large hole cut in the fence, perhaps 50 metres away from where she had crossed it. Clearly, she was not the only one to enter the carnival after hours on this particular night. The screams rang out again and Claire carried on in their direction.

     -------

     The source of the screams, it transpired, was Brad the Kyrii. Unbeknownst to anyone else, he and his friend Francis, a Skeith, had decided they need not waste any of their precious Neopoints on carnival admittance fees, and had been having a grand time on many of the rides free of charge all night. That grand time ended abruptly, however, when Brad decided to try the Coaster of Terror. With Francis in the control booth, Brad had climbed aboard the coaster in a show of bravado, only to realise his mistake as the coaster made it to the top of the first major hill.

     “Stop, stop the ride!” Brad screamed in terror.

     Francis pressed the big, red, emergency stop button, and the ride shuddered to a halt – with Brad’s carriage still sitting high above the ground.

     “Help me, let me down!” Brad yelled frantically.

     Francis started the ride up again.

     “No, no, stop it, not like that!” Brad yelled again.

     “Whoops,” said Francis, stopping the ride once more.

     “Come up and help me down, I don’t want to do this anymore,” called down a now visibly shaken Brad.

     “Nah, sorry, I don’t do heights,” Francis replied simply, checking his watch.

     Claire watched the scene unfold from afar with mild amusement, before she approached the control booth.

     “Looks like Brad’s got himself in quite the pickle,” she observed to Francis, who grunted slightly in response.

     “Who are you talking to down there?” shouted Brad.

     “Hi Brad,” Claire called up to him, “It’s Claire.”

     “Francis, stop wasting your time talking to barely-there Claire and get me down from here!” Brad yelled back.

     Claire rolled her eyes and sighed, blowing a small strand of hair away from her face in the process, before walking straight past Francis to the service ladder that led to Brad’s carriage. She began to climb.

     Up she went, moving the whole time and never once stopping to look down. The wind ruffled her fur, and the air grew colder with every rung she ascended. The little-used ladder creaked and groaned slightly under her weight, but she knew it would hold. From this vantage point, Claire could see the whole carnival and the lands of Neopia beyond – she breathed in the night air and felt so alive.

     When she reached the top of the ladder, Brad spoke without turning around.

     “You sure took your time getting up here, Fran-“ he stopped mid-sentence as he laid eyes on his rescuer. “You!?” he continued, “How did you make it all the way up here? You’d struggle to climb over a molehill at your height.”

     “Evidently not,” said Claire. “But if it’s, as you say, impossible for me to be up here, I’m happy to head back down?”

     “No, that’s fine, just get me out of here, will you?”

     Claire quickly found the harness release button and freed Brad from his lofty prison.

     They descended the ladder together, more slowly than she had ascended, mostly because Brad stopped about four times to have a private panic about how high up he was. Each time, he claimed he was just taking in the view, but Claire could feel the shaking of the ladder and hear the quiver in his voice, giving away the true reason for his pauses.

     -------

     “Thanks, I guess,” said Brad sheepishly when they were both back on solid ground, “I probably would have gotten down on my own eventually though.”

     “No, you wouldn’t have,” said Claire matter-of-factly, “but if you want to thank me, there is something you can do.”

     “What’s that?” asked Francis, as Brad stood silently, ego still bruised from the previous exchange.

     Claire pressed a button in the control booth and a fresh carriage rolled into the loading bay. She walked over to it and hopped inside, pulling the restraint down over her shoulders.

     “Get back in that control booth and give me a turn.”

     The End.

 
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