“This fucking thing? It looks like it’s gonna fall apart any minute,” Kevin said and Shelley couldn’t help but agree. Called, at one time, the Tunnel of Love, the ride was now known as Monster Maze, a rickety and very 70′s-looking haunted house attraction. Name change aside, it appeared exactly the same as the last time Shelley saw it, fifteen years ago. She even remembered the various monster-themed cars. Vampire. Werewolf. Demon. Kevin handed the bored teenage attendant two tickets, and they climbed into a griffin car. The kid pulled down the safety bar. “What the fuck’s a griffin?” Kevin asked him as the boy checked the door latch. The kid ignored him and walked over to the side where he pulled a large red handle. The machinery clanked with the sound of worn-out gears and scraping metal coming to life. “I want the vampire car!” Kevin shouted behind him, and the griffin disappeared through double doors painted like a spooky forest. The attendant squinted into the midday sun and fanned himself with a magazine. “Asshole,” he muttered to himself.
It smelled like a wet dog inside. Pipe organ music echoed through the interior of the ride, crackling with static. God only knows how long they had used that recording. Tattered cloth bats dropped down from the ceiling on strings that had yellow masking tape on them, destroying even the slightest bit of verisimilitude. Every few seconds, a high-pitched screaming sound blared over the tinny speakers. A vampire with glowing red eyes disengaged from the wall with a hydraulic hiss, as the dusty sleeve of its cloak brushed the top of Kevin’s hair. “Goddammit!” Kevin said. “There’s probably shit in my hair now. Eight fucking dollars to get shit in my hair!” He turned to look at Shelley. “You owe me,” he sneered at her. “Big time.”
The car pushed its way through another door, leading into a room meant to resemble Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. An animatronic version of Frankenstein’s monster laid on a slab. There were buzzing sound effects, and at one time there was probably a static charge going up the V-shaped antenna, but that was long out of order. “What are we even doing here,” Kevin asked as their car worked its way around the winding track. “For eight bucks I could have at least gone on the rollercoaster.” “I’m sorry,” Shelley said sharply. “I’ll give you back your eight precious dollars.” Kevin snapped his head towards her like a python. “You better watch your fucking tone,” he said, pointing his index finger an inch from Shelley’s nose, as she instinctively shrank away from him. “Don’t you forget who you’re talking to.” “I’m sorry,” Shelley stammered quietly. The monster sat up from the slab with a creak of rusty metal as the car passed next to it. Kevin smiled a mirthless smile. “Don’t be sorry babe. Just don’t let it happen again.” As their car pushed through another set of doors, Shelley heard a loud crunch as the monster fell back onto its supine position on the table.
The next room was mummy-themed. A large fiberboard pyramid sat in the middle of the room, so filthy, the hieroglyphics were barely visible under years of caked-on muck. There were several upright tombs in the room. As they rode by the first one, a mummy popped out, arms extended with filthy linen wrapping. “I don’t think they’ve changed a single thing since I was a kid,” Shelley said. “Wait a second,” Kevin said. “Time out. You’ve been through this shithole before? And wanted to re-experience…” He waved his hands around for dramatic effect. “…this?!” Another mummy sprung out of another tomb. “It was fun when I was little,” Shelley said. “It was sort of scary, I guess.” “This?” Kevin said, gesticulating again. “THIS was scary?” He laughed to himself. “Sounds like you were a little pussy. Little pussy bitch.” Shelley shrugged. “I couldn’t imagine there would be scarier things than ghosts and monsters,” she said. Kevin turned to her, looking in her eyes and weighing the meaning of those words. “Well,” he finally said, “at least I’m here to protect you.” The car approached another tomb, but the door failed to open all the way, and the mummy thudded against the half-closed lid. “This place is a fucking joke,” Kevin said, as their car exited the Egyptian room.
“And isn’t this fitting?” he said as they entered the next section. This room was meant to be hell. There were demons lining the walls, moving up and down on poorly hidden platforms and cackling with badly-recorded glee. At the far end of the room was an enormous devil, holding a pitchfork. He didn’t move, but his eyes glowed and steam erupted from the tips of his horns. The room was brighter than the others, painted red with stenciled flames drawn on the walls beneath the demons.
“I bet this room really freaked you out,” Kevin scowled at her. “Reeeeal panty-wetting material here.” The room was also hotter than the others, possibly by design, but more likely just from all the machinery overheating. “I had my first kiss in here,” Shelley said, closing her eyes. “So, wet panties of a different kind then,” Kevin smirked. “God, you’re gross,” Shelley said, pulling as far from him as possible. “We were only 13.” A mechanical demon leaned over them and rubbed its hands with lusty relish. “Who was he?” Kevin asked, swatting away the demon. Shelley shook her head. “It was a she,” she said. “Wendy Simmons.” Kevin began laughing, then amped up his laughter to sound like the demon recording. “HA HA HA,” he theatrically guffawed. “Shelley was a little dyke.” He pushed up the safety bar, stood in the car and waved his arms, as if conducting the demon army. “That’s right, fellas,” he said to them. “It IS funny, isn’t it?” He sat back down in the car. “Did you dream about Wendy Simmons?” he grinned maliciously. “Did you go home and touch yourself thinking about her little tits? Her tight little snatch?” Now Shelley stood up. “Yes Kevin,” she shouted. “I did touch myself thinking about her. We were in love.” Kevin made a scoffing sound. “Love…” he said mockingly. “Yes,” Shelley said firmly. “Love.” She sat back down in the griffin car. “And this town,” she continued. “My parents… and their goddamn church… and I ended up stuck here. Dating guys. Guys like you. And marrying…” She looked over at him and shook her head and sighed. “…guys. Like you.”
Suddenly the car stopped and all the lights went out except the large devil at the end, which remained lit up. Shelley remembered that this was part of the ride. A stereotypically “evil” voice came on over the speakers. “Ladies and gentlemen,” it growled. “Please remain in your seats while we deal with this …technical difficulty.” This was followed by sound effects that suggested demons fixing the ride with drills and hammers. “Ow,” one of the demons said. “My thumb!” Shelley turned to Kevin, though it was pitch black in the car. “I’m leaving you,” she said. “As soon as this ride is over. I’ve had enough.” “Can you hand me a screw?” a high-pitch voiced demon said in the dark. “You got it boss,” another said in a low voice. There was a sloshing sound effect. “I said screw, not stew you idiot,” the first demon said. “Sorry boss,” the other said sheepishly. Shelley felt Kevin grab the back of her hair. “You don’t leave me,” he shouted, and slammed her forehead into the safety bar. “I do the leaving!” He slammed her head on it again. “I’m the one who does the fucking leaving around here!” And he pounded her head one last time for good measure. “I think we got it!” a demon voice exclaimed. “You’d better,” the evil voice purred. “Or else…”
The lights came flickering back up and the soundtrack started again, like a record player being turned back on. The demons resumed their mechanical dance on the walls. Shelley was unconscious, slumped on the safety bar, blood pouring from a gash on her head. Kevin still had her hair bunched up in his hand. He let go quickly when he saw her. “Jesus Christ,” he whispered, shrinking to his side of the car. “Fuck.” The car approached the door between the giant devil’s legs. “See you real soon,” the evil voice said as the car pushed through.
“What the fuck?” Kevin said. Because the next room was not a room at all, but a forest. A real forest, with dense trees, but also thick green grass. And it was night. A full moon cast long shadows from the trees. Kevin looked behind him, but the door they had come through was no longer there, just endless trees. He looked down, over the side of the car. The car’s track transformed into snakes, which slithered off into the forest. Kevin turned back to Shelley, but she was not in the car anymore. She stood next to the car, naked and barefoot, with blood still running down her face. “Shelley?” Kevin whimpered.
A pair of grey wolves padded in from the thicket. “Fuck, Shelley!” Kevin shouted. Shelley turned to the wolves and knelt down as they approached her. One of the wolves licked the wound on her forehead and lapped up the blood. When she stood again, the gash in her head was gone. She turned to face Kevin, a wolf on either side of her. The painted wings on the griffin car spread out into a pair of gigantic eagle’s wings, the white feathers shaking off flecks of paint and dust. A huge eagle head emerged from the front of the car. The head turned and gazed coldly upon Kevin, and suddenly the wings bent inward and pinned Kevin to the seat. “Shelley?” he cried. One of the wolves snarled at him, but she said nothing.
And then the moon was blotted out. Hundreds of crows, maybe thousands, swirled up over the forest, cawing and shrieking. The noise was deafening, the sky a whirr of angry feathers. All at once, they descended upon Kevin. He struggled, but the griffin’s wings kept him from moving. The crows picked away at Kevin bit by bit, and flew away with small parts of him. A bit of skin here, an eyeball there, a piece of tongue. In three minutes, there was no trace of Kevin, as they even flew away with his bones.
Then it was peaceful again. The moon shone brightly upon the griffin, which no longer had the body of a carnival ride car, but had transformed into a lion. The griffin nodded to Shelley, and then took off into the night, flapping its great wings, and soaring away above the trees. Shelley felt the grass beneath her feet, wriggled her toes in it, and closed her eyes as the cool moist air hit her face. After a moment, she opened them again and scratched the heads of the wolves on either side of her. They began walking into the night.
The Monster Maze attendant was leaning on the side of the ride, sneaking a couple of puffs on a joint and looking around nervously for his supervisor. So he didn’t notice that when the car emerged from the ride interior, it was empty and the griffin design was now one with a witch. There was a hiss of steam as the red handle clicked back into the off position, and the whirring, clanking machinery slowly ground to a halt as the ride rested once again.