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Authors: Todd Loyd

Dark Ride

BOOK: Dark Ride

Dark Ride
is Dante's
Alice in Wonderland
with a big dose of Stephen King thrown in for good measure. Loyd provides a pitch-perfect new voice in young adult fiction.”

Coke Sams
Film maker (“Blue Like Jazz”
and “The Second Chance”)

“Dark Ride
carries tones reminiscent of C.S. Lewis's
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Four teenagers from the town of Cassidy, Tennessee find themselves trapped inside a ride called The Enchanted Forest at Storybook Hollow Amusement Park. Their adventure takes a supernatural turn for the worse. ‘A chilling tale for the ages.'”

Ken Beck
Author, Editor, former Newspaper Columnist
The Tennessean

“Put down the technology and get lost in the lives of some students who go on an interesting ride of their own. Enjoy a day of twists and turns that you will never forget.”

Robert Oglesby
Center for Youth and Family Ministry
Abilene Christian University

“Todd Loyd's creativity and storytelling ability will delight and encourage readers young and old. He uses his love for Christ and his dramatic skills to weave a story that both teaches and entertains.

Jeff Walling
Author, Speaker, and Senior Minister
at Providence Road Church
in Charlotte, North Carolina

“For more than a decade now I've witnessed Todd Loyd's compelling, engaging, and even hilarious creativity draw teens into a story bigger than themselves — God's story. Dive in for a read and enjoy the ride.”

Chris Seidmon
Author and Senior Minister at
the Farmer's Branch Church, Dallas, Texas






Dark Ride

Copyright © 2012 by Todd Loyd

Published by

Franklin Green Publishing

PO Box 51

Lebanon, TN 37088

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except for brief quotations in critical reviews and articles.

ISBN 978-1-9364 - 8722 - 6

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Thanks to Jacob Michael for his mentoring and experience that guided me through this process. I would like to also thank my “creative brotherhood” which consist of; David Skidmore, David Rubio, Jon Shoulders, and Dave Clayton. If not for an especially productive night on the steps of the Otter Creek stage this story would have never been told. Thanks to Chris Lee for showing me this could be done, to Zach Watson for laboring through the first edit, and to Steve Davidson, for just about everything (except comic genius). Thanks to Steve Kenney and Josh Cherry for their input and friendship. Of course, most of all, thanks to my wife, Amanda and three boys for sharing and enduring the formation of this story over the last 5 years.

May 1986

Visions of a carefree holiday had been shattered, and it was only the second day of summer. It didn't matter that it was his last three months at home before going off to college. The ultimatum was this: he was going to get a job.

Well, it was actually nicer than that. His parents said something to the effect of, “If you work now, we'll help you with school, but if you don't, you're on your own.” So off to work he went in khaki shorts, a polo shirt, which was some disgustingly teal color, white socks, and white shoes with no lettering or logos visible. This, aside from the optional sunglasses, was the official attire for every employee at Storybook Hollow Amusement Park. A nametag topped off his garb—“Doug.”But no one called him Doug. It was always Douglas. Except when he was in trouble with his dad, and then it was Douglas Edward Finch. Or when his mother talked to him. To her, he was Dougy—her attempt to freeze him forever at the age of three and a half.

Working at an amusement park with the tagline “Where Everyone Experiences Their Happily Ever After” seemed like a fun option. And Douglas didn't think the first day was so bad; he got the lay of the land, filled out paperwork, filled out more paperwork, and he learned where to punch in and how to work the time clock so he could get paid.

But the second day was a completely different story. It was work. Dull, tenuous work—and not very fun at all. He'd drawn the lot of being trained by Clyde, a legend of sorts…or more like a fixture. The old man showed Douglas the ropes by barking out orders, filling his head with endless facts, and going through a mental checklist that the old grizzled veteran had probably never written down. After they had been at it for nine hours and walked through every inch of the place, Douglas wondered, “Does this guy ever stop?”

He received his answer by hearing more statements such as, “In case the toilets back up, you got plungers in that shed there or behind the water ride,”…“Never let anyone park in that spot. It's reserved,”…“That's where the breakers are…unless it's at night. Then you gotta flip the power switch in the carousel, but only after priming the charger plate,”…“That right there? Pixie's? Best funnel cake in the park…if you ever have a hankerin' for that kind of stuff.”

On and on it went.

Their goal that day was to simply make sure everything was ready for the opening weekend. But Douglas was still trying to learn his way around Storybook Hollow. It was like a maze. Even when Douglas came as a kid, he'd always get lost. Clyde said the place was “intentionally made that way. Keeps people in the park longer. They get lost. Decide to get on another ride. Spend more money. Hope we never have a fire emergency—whole place'll burn all the guests.” Douglas couldn't tell if his mentor-slash-boss was serious or not. Old Clyde never seemed to laugh.

Clyde had always been at Storybook Hollow. At least as far as Douglas could remember. But both the park and Clyde were showing their age. Douglas longed for the old man to simply say, “Okay that's it for today,” but instead, he heard, “Now for the Dark Ride.”

The Dark Ride, like Clyde, was a legend of the park. The main attraction, actually. One of those “get in a car and drive through the dark” rides that teens like to steal a kiss on, scares little kids, and parents dread. But the story of the ride was what made it fun because it found a way to blend together all of the old stories and fairytales. Douglas had many good memories of the ride, and even though it'd been a long day, he was a little excited to see the ride “behind the scenes.”

They entered the musty old building. Clyde said, “Now we're gonna need to make sure everything's in order. Calibrate the runners. Tighten the ratchets on the anti-rollbacks. Streamline the—”

“The anti-roll what?”

“Keeps the car from rolling back-erds.” But then Clyde stopped and took a closer look at Douglas. “You need to be writin' any of this down, or you got it?”

“I think I got it.”

“Then stop interruptin'.”

Clyde went on about the “car barn” and the “Linear Induction Motor” and the “Friction Bars” until Douglas felt like his brain was melting out of his ears, which could be due to info-fry or to the fact that the air conditioning hadn't been turned on and it was about 100 degrees inside, even at 10 p.m.

Aren't there laws against slave labor?
Douglas wondered, trying to squelch his growling stomach.

Clyde was busy working on an electronic short of some kind, fixing it with saliva and black electrical tape. “Yeah, that'll hold.”

Douglas thought,
At this rate, we'll be here till sun-up.
He asked, “You think I can go on ahead? Check out anything on down the road?”

. On down the track.” An electrical ZAP sent Clyde's fingers to his mouth and he sucked on them to ease the sting. “Yeah, go on ahead. Make sure there's no debris or anything, then meet me two rooms up. We gotta check a couple of props, which is a two-man job, and then we'll call it a night.”

Douglas pushed through two heavy doors. The power was on but Clyde had turned the cars off so neither of them had to avoid the large moving vehicles that carried guests on their tours through the ride. Although two feint lights glowed overhead, they were almost useless. He had relied on Clyde's large black flashlight to provide light, but now he reached into his canvas work belt and grabbed the one he'd gotten on the cheap at Barney's, the local discount store. Shining the flashlight from corner to corner, he knelt beside the tracks, illuminating the curving trail all the way to the next set of doors. Nothing. All was clear. He kept moving. The faster this went, the better. He was looking forward to getting home to finish the remains of a large mushroom and green pepper pizza from the night before, which was nestled into the top shelf of the Finch family fridge.

Then he heard music.

Douglas stopped and craned his neck to make sure he wasn't making up the sound. He wasn't. Sure enough, a strange, soft tune was being emitted from behind the wall to his left.

Sounds like a calliope
, he thought.

Stepping over to the wall, he listened some more. Sure enough, he wasn't hearing things.

He called out, “Hey Clyde? Do you hear that music?”

“What was that?” came the muffled response from the other side of the doors. “Did you say music?”

“Yeah. Sounds like a calliope or something.”

“How you know what a calliope sounds like?”

“You know…like the merry-go-round plays.”

“You're hearing things, captain. Ain't no calliopes in this place.”

Douglas liked the fact the Clyde called him captain. He knew it was something he called everyone, but it made him feel important.

He turned his attention back to the wall; the music kept on playing. It was also getting louder. Douglas moved along the wall, trying to find the focal point of the sound. As he approached the spot on the wall where the sound was the loudest, he slowly raised his hand to feel for any vibration. At a spot above his head there was a buzzing, static sound, as if someone had just turned on a fluorescent light. A sign he had not noticed before flickered to life. It simply read, “ENTER” in dim glowing green.

As the sign glowed to life, so did the edges of a door with a faint, green glow illumined all around it. Then a push-bar emerged.
, thought Douglas. The music kept playing.

The old man called, “Almost done in here, your music still playing?”

“Yeah. I think I see where it's coming from. Gonna check it out.” Douglas, slightly apprehensive but more curious, gripped his flashlight, pushed the bar, and went through the door.

Twenty-Two Years Later

Darkness. Complete, utter darkness. It wouldn't be long before the cycle began again. Now it's just anticipation, waiting for the distant whispers, the shrieks of fear, the bravado mocking. It's quiet, black, still.

Suddenly, there's light everywhere. Blinding light.

Here we go
. A barrage of sound erupts, but the different noises can't be deciphered. It's confusing, but amidst the chaos…it's her—the girl in red. She's twenty feet away.

I have to catch her. This time'll be different. I'll succeed.

There's running, pushing, dodging, and lunging.

Just as fingertips are about to reach her dress, a mechanical juggernaut blocks the path.

Ear splitting screams fill the air.

No! She's getting away. Just like last time. And the time before. And the time before. And the…
An invisible force that feels like a hand clasping, choking, and pulling,

The light fades.

Voices fade.

There is no sound.

Then the light wisps out.

Back to nothingness.

Next time…next time I'll catch her.

More waiting. Waiting till it begins again. The cycle.

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