Daniel was five that year. He was finally old enough to appreciate the festival that consumed Woodhaven for four days every summer for the past seven years. And as every summer before, the moment Daniel walked into the park with his parents, he ran past all of the stands of flowing dresses, the tables of sunglasses for sale: Buy 1, Get 1, past the spinning rides and past the overwhelming smells of grease from funnel cakes and pizza stands. He would run past everything, directly to the funhouse. And his mom, like every summer before, had a slight tinge of uneasiness.
This year he was old enough to run there by himself while his mom and dad stopped at the ticket booth to buy Daniel’s wristband. A wristband that, for Daniel, just appeared…no money involved…no asking involved…it just was.
His parents watched him run there, Dad keeping his eyes on him the entire way while Mom purchased the bands.
“Do you want one, Honey?” she asked.
“You know I can’t handle those rides, Sarah,” he said.
“I know, just thought maybe you’d go into the funhouse with him this year.”
“You can. You go on all the other rides with him.”
Her eyes grew large. “Absolutely not!” She was terrified of funhouses. When she was a child, she got lost in one and swore that she saw a man with bulging, bloody eyes watching her try to find her way out. Of course, now as an adult, she knew that was ridiculous, but it was still terrifying none the less.
Both their hearts warmed to watch Daniel’s excitement as he ran into the funhouse. Every once in a while his cute little body would follow the trail out onto the deck to play little games that were attached to the wall. Each time he came out, he was sure to waive to them.
They had only been there for fifteen minutes and they were both beginning to sweat. Sarah pulled her hair away from her neck while Tom pulled his shirt back and forth from his chest. While Sarah continued to watch for Daniel to reach the exit of the funhouse, Tom was taking note of the number of children that had gone in after Daniel and have already exited.
“You should go in there and check on him,” he said to Sarah who was terrified at the thought, but knew it had to be done.
She went in through the exit which was a giant rolling bin that reminded her of a mouse wheel and held her breath as she entered the inside of the funhouse. To her relief, Daniel was right there, in front of the body mirrors. As she walked up, she could see him having a conversation with himself in the mirror.
“Yeah, sometimes I get hungry too.” There was a pause as she watched him continue to stare into the mirror. “Ew!” Then he laughed. “I don’t eat people! I eat things like hot dogs. You’re funny!” Her heart started pumping. Who was he talking to? She tried to reassure herself by remembering that kids talk to themselves often. Daniel talks to himself often. “Why are your eyes so big? Is that blood on your face?” She pushed through the immediate numbing of her body and charged over to Daniel, grabbing him and rushing him out of the funhouse. Daniel started screaming, he obviously wasn’t ready to leave yet.
It took a while, but Tom had finally calmed Sarah down, convincing her that Daniel had a pretty good imagination.
Their night ended once the KISS cover band took stage. It was time to get Daniel home and time to let the adults of Woodhaven have some fun.
The next day, Daniel pleaded to go back and asked if his neighbor Laura could come as well. This was odd as Laura was only three-years-old and Daniel never wanted to play with her. In fact, every time she would wander over to the house when he was playing with his friends, they would flatly tell her to go away because they didn’t like her. Sarah thought this would be a great opportunity for Daniel to finely learn to like the little neighbor, so gave into his begging. Tom was at work for the day; it would just be the three of them.
As always, their first stop was the funhouse. Although Sarah’s body had a constant feeling of electricity going through it, a constant jolt of warning, she reminded herself of her husband’s words the day before…just his imagination.
“Keep an eye on her while you’re in there,” she told Daniel as him and Laura entered the house.
Minutes accumulated to fifteen again. Everything inside Sarah was sounding on high alert. Once again she traveled through what she felt was a spinning wheel of death because on the other side…
WHY did I listen to Tom? Why did I let them go in there?
Once again, Daniel was in front of the body mirrors.
“What’s an ap-pit-eye-sir?” he asked the mirror.
Sarah glanced around the funhouse room. Laura was nowhere to be seen. Two other children laughed and ran past her. “Laura?” she yelled. “Laura?” She walked closer to Daniel who continued chatting with the mirror.
“I only eat one time,” he said. “You must really be hungry!”
“Daniel, where’s Laura?”
Daniel looked at his mom then pointed back to the mirror, continuing his conversation with it. “That’s my mom,” he said.
“Daniel, get away from the mirror! Where’s Laura?” she started reaching for Daniel.
“Mommy, he wants to talk to you.”
Her arm still extended to Daniel. “Who?” her voice was a mere squeak.
“The funny man.”
Her arm was suddenly grabbed by a hand with long fingers that reached out from inside the mirror.
But he didn’t, Daniel laughed while his mom was pulled into the mirror.
“He’s so hungry!”
As she was being pulled in, she could hear Daniel saying how the funny man wanted to meet Daddy later that night and he couldn’t wait to come back! “Daniel, No!” she yelled.
Her yells turned to screams as she was sucked further into the mirror. Her screams were soon silenced as her flesh was devoured piece by piece until there was nothing left.
“Okay,” Daniel said to the mirror. “I can come back with someone the next two days. Sometimes I get hungry too.”
Written by Sheryl Marasi (pen name)
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