Tales From The Park-Side is a series of horrific short stories inspired by places and artifacts that can be found inside a certain little theme park in central Florida. These stories are written by members of the Orlando area entertainment and theme park industry and were curated by Audrey Brown-Willaims.
"Nobody Dies At The Park"
Written by Marc Collins
It was hot.
Sara pushed a handful of yellow popcorn into her mouth and slid her sunglasses up her slippery nose.
“It’s some kind of legal thing. Like, they own Lake Bonaventura and there’s Reed’s Crossing and this municipal…but I think maybe it’s because they don’t have an actual hospital.”
Dave wiped the back of his neck and dried his hand on his t-shirt.
“That’s an urban legend. I think you told me that in middle school. And it wasn’t true then.”
“No, but seriously, though. If they can’t declare you dead on property, then legally you aren’t dead.”
“I don’t think that’s a thing.”
The 5 PM parade was rounding the corner, and a surge of bodies pushed them towards the edge of the sidewalk.
“OK, well, when’s the last time you heard that somebody died at The Park?”
Dave felt for his phone, found it, started to pull it out, realized what he was doing, and let it go.
“Is there literally anything else we could talk about?”
Sara looked at her old friend.
“I’m sorry. I’m supposed to be cheering you up and I’m talking about people getting their heads knocked off on Space Rush.”
She squeezed his arm and looked at her watch. “The parade’s gonna keep everyone out here for a while. Whaddaya wanna do?”
Dave looked out over the crowds without really seeing anything.
“Come on, you’re a single man again and this is your favorite place on Earth - but it does close at midnight.”
He took a deep breath and told himself to make today work. “Narrow the field a little?”
“Pirate Falls or Ghostly Gardens.”
“Excellent! OK, we’re on the wrong side of American Square. So, we gotta go around.”
Dave saw a space between the floats.
He leapt over the guide rope and made a dash just as a dancer wheeled in front of him. He tried to change direction, but his ankle turned and the pavement met his face with a shocking smack. The world flashed white.
His ears rang in the sudden silence. The white leeched away, leaving a hollow black.
There was no pain. He was standing. Vague, lumbering shapes moved around him. And there were smaller shapes…people? But no faces, no voices.
Was he standing or floating? He was dizzy. Then he saw something glowing blue. Only a child. Soaking wet, clutching his backpack, his eyes bulging helplessly as dark shapes passed behind him.
There was a man, mouth gaping, and most of his head gone, also glowing a piercing blue. He was reaching for something.
A woman, seated, gripping her chest and head at once. Confused, gasping silently. He saw the outlines of parade floats, wispy shades of people crowding silently around him. And again, the piercing blue as a sleek, ghostly train rocketed by, dragging parts of a young man’s body across a track that was already fading into the shadows.
He tried to breathe. There was a man…falling, howling silently past him, flailing and grasping desperately, only a streak of blue light racing away into the distance.
An iron grip on his shoulder. He could see a face, distorted and wavering, as if through dark water.
“Can you hear me?”
The darkness was melting away. He was bumping, rocking back and forth.
“Buddy, can you hear me?”
The face was talking to him.
“He’s coming around. Keep pressure on that. Hey, buddy. Can you hear me?”
The blue figures were gone. He heard a steady siren as they sped down the highway, rocking with the hum of the road. Dave blinked. The lights were dim but he could see Sara sitting next to him. He felt her squeezing his hand.
“You had us worried there, big guy.” The man looked over at another figure. “Just keep the drip going, his eyes are pretty clear. Stay still now.”
Sara choked on a sob and wiped at her eyes. Dave tried to smile at her.
“Lucky for you, buddy.” The tech gently squeezed his shoulder. “Nobody dies at The Park.”
He closed his eyes and thought he saw the faint blue glow trailing away in the distance.
Marc Collins is a writer, producer, movie lover, and adventurer. He is the founder of event and content production firm Odyssey Creative, and conservation steward of The Riverbend Preserve in southwestern Washington State.
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