Winter Wonderland - 5 Minute Freewrite: Tuesday - Prompt: big crowd
Even though Mali was easily the tallest in her class it wasn't enough, the reality of it hit her hard in the pit of her stomach, she was just too damn small.
The three of them were making their way through a living forest of torsos thronging from ride to ride. Mali's hands were sweaty inside the huge bear grip of her father. He weaved through the mess of people tugging her behind, every few seconds she had to skip for a few steps to catch up.
Three teenage girls burst into a small clearing in front of them, they were screaming and laughing spotlighted by the powerful lights ringing the whole fair. The girls started a fierce debate as to which terrifying ride they were going on next, their shrieks seeming extra sharp in the crisp night air. Mali craned her neck following their snatched away voices as they headed in the opposite direction, she watched as the crowd swallowed them up leaving just a memory of their presence.
"Sorry love." The man selling the tickets had already spun away to deal with another paying customer and didn't notice Mali glaring up at him.
The frozen night air chilled her damp cheeks, she looked up at the latest ride she wasn't allowed on.
Screams of terror and delight dopplered high above their heads as the 'coaster came out of another gut wrenching loop.
The entire ride was bathed in a hazy pale blue light. Mali watched as the line of cars reached the pinnacle of the track. Even over surrounding noise enshrining her, Mali felt the combined inhale of breath from the people on board. The rollercoaster tipped over the edge and
ripped down through a tunnel covering most of the downslope of track. Just before the bottom it shot out of the tunnel and went into an almost immediate loop the loop.
Mali felt the rumble from the trundling wheels on the track as they vibrated up through her feet to echo around the inside of her chest. She sucked in a deep quivering breath, the icy air chilling her lungs.
"It's not fair! I'm only ten centimetres too short, it's not like I'm a baby." She looked down at the floor, she felt the sharp tang of tears stinging her eyes.
"I'm sorry baby." Her dad said. "It's a safety thing, if you're not tall enough the bar might not hold you and you'd plunge to your death."
She wasn't in the mood for jokes and the way her dad was looking at her was really beginning to get on her nerves.
His eyes were wide with pity, big brown pools staring back at her.
"Come on, we'll find something good. I promise."
Her mum looked like she just wanted to go home. She was doing that thing with her lips where she pressed them together so tightly the skin around her mouth went extra white.
The bright lights all around them highlighted the small flakes of mostly unnoticed snow beginning their gentle descent, settling quietly on the heads and shoulders of the fairgoers around them. Mali watched a few small flakes land on her mother's exposed blonde hair before glistening out of existence.
"Great! Look!" Her dad was pointing excitedly at a sign.
MINIMUM HEIGHT 1.30 METRES
"That's your height remember when we measured you? You were one metre thirty! Excellent!"
He wore a smile right across his face, Mali looked up, the ride consisted of maybe seven or eight rectangular loops. She saw people sitting in these couch like things trundling up and around.
Mali watched as the couch-cars ambled their way up to the top, only to come down again at exactly the same pedestrian pace. No loops, no tunnels, no lights. Just a yellow sign painted with squiggly red letters, surrounded by pale yellow light bulbs. The sign read:
"Hmm, yeah, it's okay I suppose."
"Oh come on, this'll be great!" Her dad's smile was more frozen now. He kept shooting sideways glances at her mother.
"Are you coming mummy?" She looked up at her mum, a halo of yellow light round her head lit up her blonde hair making it seem like a golden fire.
"Of course baby, come on, it'll be fun."
The man put the bar down and the couch-car moved off up the track. Mali sat between the two of them, her dad slid a bit closer and squeezed her hand.
"Maybe we'll see some early fireworks from up there. I'm sure all the main ones will be at midnight but you never know."
Red lights strobed briefly across his face, lighting his dark brown skin. He pulled up the hood of his coat and shivered.
"Phew! It's a lot colder up here isn't it?"
Mali was just thinking about how she wouldn't have an exciting story to tell her friends after the holidays. She'd told them all that her parents had promised to take her to the Winter Wondrland and they'd been so jealous of her.
Tamara said that she was also allowed to stay up on New Year's Eve, but Mali was pretty sure she was lying.
Mali looked out to her left, in the distance she could hear the screams coming from the rides she wanted to be on. The car they sat in ambled its way to the first corner, as they got there it whipped around it so fast that she didn't even have time to scream properly.
"Woah!" She looked to her right, her mum sat there wide eyed, both hands enveloped Mali's.
"Ow, you're hurting me mummy!"
Her mum relaxed her grip momentarily, but then the car jerked around the next corner in the corkscrew.
"Aaaahhhhh!!!" All three of them yelled in terror.
The most terrifying thing about this ride, wasn't the speed it went round the corners, although that definitely had something to do with it.
It was the fact that the whole thing felt like a huge sofa with tiny little shopping trolley wheels, impossibly balanced on an extremely narrow gauge rail.
Mali felt like the whole thing was going to fly off the track every time it lurched around another corner.
"I'm scared daddy!"
"Me too!! Just close your eyes!"
Mali screwed her eyes shut, but that was worse. Now she had no idea when the next bend was coming. The feeling that they were about to be thrown hundreds of feet through the air was much more scary. She opened her eyes again.
Turn after turn they were whipped around, all three of them crying and pleading for their lives.
Another terrifying thing, Mali noticed, was the car they sat in was big enough for at least twice as many people as it currently held. So each time it whizzed round a corner, they all slid to the end, further convincing Mali that they were all definitely going to die.
They were at the top now and Mali realised that this was the tallest ride in the whole fair, even the GHOSTRIDER II was dwarfed from up here. There was a brief moment of serenity as they looked down at the large crowd below.
"Oh my God!!" Her dad's voice boomed into the night, Mali was sure the whole fair could hear him.
They began the descent, Mali had realised that there was a car just in front of them and if she watched she could tell when the next time their car was about to wrench them around the next corner. It was still terrifying but not as much as going down.
She realised that the corners on the side of the ride that faced the rest of the park, were much scarier than the ones on the other side.
For a start, Mali thought to herself, if they did come of the track then, they would fly silently off into the inky black night, to crash down on the unseen floor.
At least with the fairground side they might land on a group of people, therefore cushioning their fall.
Mali tried to take her mind off the ride by attempting to calculate just how many people they'd have to land on in order to save their lives. This was the kind of thought experiment her dad loved, however he was too busy screaming all of the air out of his lungs.
They lurched around the last corner and came to rest where they had left from, in what seemed like ten minutes ago, but in truth was probably little more than ninety seconds earlier.
The couch-car came to a stop, her dad immediately began to lift the safety bar up just as it suddenly jolted forwards.
The guy working the ride had been coming towards them, cracked a huge smile and let out a barely hidden laugh.
Her dad didn't seem to notice, or care if he did.
"Not again! Let's get off!"
"Again! Again!" Mali squealed.
"NO!" Both her parents chimed in perfect chorus.
On the bus ride home Mali told her father about the thought experiment she'd conducted whilst they were being whirled around.
He smiled the smile at her that always made her feel so warm inside.
"Well, what number did you come up with?" He asked.
"I was thinking about thirty, but they'd have to be standing fairly close together."
He turned and looked out of the window, stroking his short beard, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
"Hmm, yeah. I think that's a good calculation. Although I would've felt much more comfortable with fifty. We would have had a fair bit of forward momentum, so we'd want to make sure when we hit them that we didn't just kind of go through them."
"Femi!" Mum had her schoolteacher look on. "Jesus, that's horrible, they'd all die."
Dad grinned and winked at me. "Yeah, but we'd still be alive. Also I'd want fat ones, skinny people would be no good."
"Maybe you'd need twice as many skinny ones?" Mali said with a sly grin.
Her mother rolled her eyes and looked out of the window.
They spent the rest of the ride talking about how many people it would take to save them after falling out of a variety of fair rides, planes, helicopters and such.
They got off the bus a couple of stops early, and watched fireworks light up the night sky.
"Happy New Year baby." Her dad said.
"Happy New Year." Her mum said.
"Happy New Year mummy and daddy. And thank you, that was the best ever!"
"Yeah well savour it, I'm never going on one of those things again."
The genuine fear in her dad's voice set Mali off and she laughed the rest of the way home as her dad detailed every terrifying thought he'd had during the Whirly Dhirly ride.
The snow was coming down heavier now, with any luck there would be enough for a snowball fight tomorrow, and maybe even sledging.
Mali tried the obligatory, can I stay up longer? gambit, but her heart wasn't really in it.
That night she dreamt of the best, well the only, fair ride she'd ever been on.