Darkspire Park: The Screaming Giggler
©1999 Hawkyn -- all rights reserved
We believe that amusement parks are there for our enjoyment. What if someone created one for his or her own unique entertainment? Welcome to Darkspire Park, a place that invites the unwitting and unwise to experience a new level of fun... and fear.
To say that Charlie loved roller coasters was like saying that tornadoes love trailers... it just doesn't quite cover the extent of the attraction. He was a member of at least three different roller coaster enthusiast clubs, possessed the complete series about coasters from The Learning Channel on tape, had photographs of every coaster he had been on covering his walls, and had ridden almost every major roller coaster in country. Charlie spent his nights on the Internet researching new coasters and his weekends making treks across the country to ride them. Many who shared his hobby considered him an expert. The rest pegged him some kind of nut.
Charlie had been searching in vain for a new coaster within weekend excursion range and within his budget to hit for the weekend. As he scoured the alt.rollercoasters.fan newsgroup his email chimed that he had something in his inbox. Switching over to check it out he saw that it didn't have a return email address. Spam. He thought he had set his filter up to discard that kind of crap, but they keep finding ways around the filters. As he moved, his mouse over to delete the message the subject caught his eye.
Darkspire Park, The World of Surprises Waits for You.
"A park," he thought. "Maybe one of my friends sent it to me and screwed up the return address."
He opened the message and read:
Darkspire Park is the most amazing new concept in theme parks since the creation of that place in California. At Darkspire you will find an amazing variety of rides that are guaranteed to change the way you look at amusement parks. We have Broadway style shows with actors, singers, dancers, and don't be surprised if you find yourself up on stage along with them. There is shopping at our many shops catering to all your souvenir tastes. Our cornucopia of restaurants, vendor carts and new automated vending systems will satisfy even the most diverse palates.
When you are here, check out the Castle Darkspire, a ride and haunted castle in one hair-raising adventure. Try the Dragon's Breath, our mystical excursion into the land of dragons. Dive into the Mermaid's Revenge or fly through the countryside on The Bat. Don't forget the Screaming Giggler, the best new coaster in the country, one ride and you will never be the same.
Charlie stopped there and reread the last paragraph. If it is the best new coaster in the country, then how come he hadn't heard of it before? He immediately scanned down and found the address for the park and a number to call for advanced tickets.
The phone was answered by a quiet, deep man's voice. "Darkspire Park, the world of surprises awaits you. How may I assist you?"
"Hello. I am interested in purchasing a ticket to your park. I would like to know what the admission price is and get directions on how to get there."
"Yes. How many in your party sir?"
"Just me, I will be writing a review on your Screaming Giggler for Roller Coaster Enthusiast Magazine." Charlie often used this particular trick to try to get a better price or maybe some benefits when he was at the park. He never bothered mentioning that the magazine was produced by him and only went out to about forty other enthusiasts.
"Ah, I see, the admission price is $35.00 for adults unless you are with a group and then you might be eligible for a discount. I think you'll find our attractions here will redefine your definition of..."
"Yes, I read your advertisement." Charlie cut the guy off before he could finish his sentence. "Could you just give me the directions, coming from the Interstate?"
"Of course," the voice replied and gave him the directions finishing up with, "I will put a note with your reservation to ensure that your ride will change your world. See you soon here at Darkspire Park." Daydreaming about his next conquest kept Charlie distracted until Saturday morning.After a quick shower, he set out while the sun was still just a glimmer on the distant horizon. The directions they provided took him far out into the countryside. A gray blanket covered the interstate as clouds of fog oozed through the valleys. Shadowy outlines of farmhouses and forests faded in and out of the dim morning light. The further down the road he traveled the fewer cars he saw sharing the road. By the time he reached the exit for the park, his was the only vehicle for miles.
Charlie started to wonder if he was at the right place. The only indication that it was the correct exit was a small sign that pointed to his left and said "Darkspire 3.1 miles, 5 km". He lowered his window and strained to see if the park was visible from here. Nothing, there weren't even fast food restaurants or gas stations at the off ramp to take advantage of crowds that would be coming through. That struck him as very strange, but it could also mean that he might not have to worry about any crowds.
He made the left turn and started down the road. Within seconds he had lost sight of the exit and was surrounded by tall pine trees. The road wove and dipped through the countryside like a coaster and Charlie was enjoying the drive. Finally he rounded a curve, and the sensuous curves of a roller coaster appeared over the tops of the pine trees ahead. Just beyond the coaster he could make out what looked like the twin turrets of castle off to one side. The last turn split into 4 lanes and spilled into a vast and virtually empty parking lot with no more than twenty cars so far. At the front gate he saw two buses unloading and a small mini van pulling out.
Charlie quickly climbed out of his car and headed for the main gate. Approaching the gate, he took a look at the emptying busses. They were your basic school busses, yellow with the scars that come from years of service. They each had a sign attached to the side with duct tape that said "St. Felicia's School for Girls". What he saw pouring out of the buses made him cringe, teenage girls, all of them were fourteen to fifteen years of age, and of them were chattering, laughing and yelling to one another.
It wasn't that Charlie didn't like women. He liked them just fine. It was teenyboppers that set his nerves on edge. Their high-pitched wails, constant yakking, and ever-present tittering on a roller coaster was enough to ruin it for him no matter how great the ride itself was. He moved quickly to the advanced ticket booth and walked up to the window.
"Hi, I have a reserved ticket," he said handing the girl in the booth his driver's license and confirmation number.
"Yes, here it is, the reporter for the roller coaster magazine. Here is your ticket and this badge will let the attendants know that you are to get as many continuous rides on the Screaming Giggler as you might want," she said while handing him the items. "I am sure this will be the most unique coaster you have ever been on."
"Thank you, I'll make sure a copy of my review is sent to the park."
Charlie rushed through the gate and pulled out the map he had received with his ticket. There was a small courtyard area just inside the gate. In the center of the courtyard was a large fountain with a huge and detailed statue of a dragon with its wings spreading out over the grass. The park appeared to have a Medieval Theme with shops and restaurants created to look like they were out of the dark ages. He checked the map and found a maze of curved paths going out in all directions. The trails snaked all over and crossed each other apparently at random. There didn't appear to be a straight line on the whole map. The path from the Front Gate to the entrance of the coaster would take him through half the park and past at least three other rides before he could reach his final destination.
Charlie found the start of the path and set out at a fast walk hoping to avoid any crowds heading for the coaster. He took casual notice of the other rides as he moved past them. Mental notes were made about which ones might be good to check out after the coaster. After a few minutes Charlie stopped to catch his breath. He didn't get much exercise these days and with close to two hundred and fifty pounds on his six-foot frame he found that he got winded easily. While he rested he watched The Mermaid's Revenge ride. The log flume style boats wove through the trees then plunged down an incline and seemingly disappeared into the lake at the bottom of the slide.
He took off again and at last the platform for the coaster was in sight. A forest of timbers rose up from giant pilings meeting crossbeams, cripples, and the narrow ribbon of steel at the top to form an intricate web of support for the train of cars climbing to its top. Charlie stood for a minute and marveled at the construction. Many wooden coasters had been under his scrutiny in the past, and they had been found unsatisfactory. This one looked different. It looked larger somehow. It looked solid, yet scarier than any other coaster he had been on. A roll of film was gone in no time as he quickly snapped pictures to add to his collection.
Charlie moved on through the line control maze to the ramp leading up the loading platform. The ride complex was set up to look like an old wood mill with huge timbers rising up from the ground forming columns that supported the cedar-covered roof. There was a small line at the top of the ramp so he took his place at the rear. He stood patiently, watching the trains come and go. Then he heard them, three of the teenyboppers he had seen get off of the busses at the Front Gate moved up into line behind him. Frowning he sized them up. Each was at the age that he hated. They were old enough to start looking good and too young to touch. They all wore shorts and skimpy little tops that accentuated their still developing bodies. He couldn't help but notice the seemingly endless chatter. As he turned away from them the thoughts that their ear piercing howling would be there for each drop and tunnel set his teeth on edge.
Trying to get his mind off the girls and back on the business at hand, Charlie started reading the signs around the station. There were the standard warnings about keeping your hands, feet, and arms inside or you may lose them. There was another about securing all loose items. One said that only Screaming Gigglers should ride in the front two cars. It was obviously meant as an attempt at humor. The last told about the ride itself. It told the height of the largest drop, length of the ride, the number of turns, and that it had seven tunnels. He snapped a picture of the signs and moved up and away from the girls.
Moving out onto the platform Charlie quickly moved up to the line for the front seat. What he found there caused his teenybopper phobia to increase again. There were two pairs of chattering girls in line ahead of him. There were also four girls in line for the second seat and all the girls appeared to be carrying on separate conversations at once. Then to add insult to injury, one of the girls from the ramp moved up in line behind him and her two friends got in line for the second seat.
As he sized up the situation he let out a sigh of relief. He figured the girls behind him would want to ride on the same run, and teenyboppers seldom want to get in the car with a strange man; so he might luck out and get the first two cars to himself.
The next train entered the station and the cars loaded up. Now the four girls in front of him and the three behind were all carrying on conversations with each other and yelling to their friends waiting to get on other cars. He tried to ignore them, tried to pay attention to the ride, but the inane prattle forced its way in.
"I love that nail polish. Where did you get it?"
"You should wear your hair this way. It would look so much better."
"Then Freddy kissed me and tried to... well I stopped him right there."
"You should have worn a bikini top under that in case we get wet on the rides."
Another train came and went. More people came up, but none moved to the front two seats.
Charlie whispered to himself, "Only one more train and I will get some peace and quiet."
The babbling continued. "That new store at the mall, Shoe Storm or something like that."
"That is such a pretty top and that skirt matches your shoes too."
"No, I won't go out with Freddy again. Not unless he asks me... he he he."
"Can I borrow your sweater? I didn't remember to bring mine and you have that big blouse."
The next train arrived and Charlie quickly climbed into the front car and pulled the lap bar down against his belly. His large bulk prevented the lap bar from going down more than two clicks, but a few tugs reassured him that he wouldn't be going anywhere.
"Sir, are you sure you want to ride in the front cars?" the attendant asked as she checked the lap bar. Seeing his badge, she stopped. "Oh, I am sorry I didn't realize it was you. Enjoy the ride sir."
Charlie smiled a smug smile thinking that this might work out better than he thought. Then the girl who had been in line behind him climbed into the seat beside him and her friends climbed into the second seat. Charlie's heart sank like a lead balloon. He wanted to complain, but realized that such a display might jeopardize his ability to get on future rides.
"I will just have to get through this one and then they will be gone and I can ride without the distractions," he muttered to himself.
With the girls whispering excitedly the train left the platform and headed up the first hill. The rhythmic clank and rattle of the chain pulling the cars up the hill helped calm Charlie's hysteria about the girls and he relaxed himself for the first hill. As the train reached the top of the hill he could see the track rise and fall before him like a steel and wood serpent weaving through the trees and hills, coiling in upon itself. With a sudden jerk, the car was hurtling toward the first tunnel and right on cue the girls let out an ear splitting scream.
Musty darkness enveloped them as they passed through the tunnel. Gravity pulled down on the lap bar and Charlie felt it click down another notch. It didn't feel any tighter, but it did seem like he had slid down in his seat a little. Shooting out of the tunnel and up the next hill he could hear the girls laughing and joking with each other. The next hill rose before them and he tried to prepare himself for the inevitable cacophony of noise from his fellow riders.
Into the next tunnel, and the lap bar clicked down once more. This time the bar felt loose for second, and when the bar clicked it felt snug once more. Charlie looked over at the girl in the seat next to him. Her strait blond hair was streaming behind her and she was giggling as they burst out into the sun and up the next hill. He thought to himself that he had was at least a head taller than her when they got on and now he was almost eye-to-eye with her. He quickly tried to push himself back up in the seat, but didn't seam to raise himself any further.
So distracted by the seat problems, he didn't notice the next drop coming up and as the train careened over the hill it caught him off guard and he let out a small scream. Charlie never screamed on a coaster. It was one of his cardinal rules of riding coasters. Always ride the front seat, never wave your arms about like some kind of idiot, avoid riding with teenage banshees, and above all never scream... it just isn't dignified. Yet he had just let out a scream that was at least as loud as the girl sitting next to him.
He was disgusted with himself now and a little confused. The sunlight vanished as they dove into the next tunnel. The lap bar clicked down again. Bathed in sunlight once more as the cars passed out of the tunnel, Charlie looked over at his companion and found he was now looking up at her. He looked down at himself could only stare at his now loose fitting clothes. His paunch was gone. Charlie's legs, which had barely fit in the car when he got in, were now barely touching the floor, and his shoes and socks hung loosely on his now thin and small feet. Charlie started to panic. What was going on? What was happening to him?
Still staring down, the next hill caught him off guard once more. Charlie screamed all the way down into the tunnel this time. The scream climbed the scale from low to high pitch as the train disappeared into the tunnel. The bar didn't click this time, but Charlie could tell that something else had happened. The light of the sun revealed that his Dockers and dress shirt were now gone and in their place was a loose-fitting pink top and what looked like hot pants that barely covered his genitals. He only looked up when the girl in the seat next to him giggled and turned to him.
"Oh Charlie, isn't this the best ride ever?"
How did she know his name? What happened to his clothes? Charlie stared back down at his new outfit and thought how ridiculous he must look. Looking up the next drop was just starting. He saw this one coming, but found himself screaming as he dropped down the hill despite himself. They entered the shadows and Charlie felt a strange new sensation sweep through him. A warm, happy, tingling seemed to fill him from head to toe and as the sunlight washed over them he found himself giggling along with the others. The shorts that had fit his male anatomy so poorly scant seconds before were now covering a set of hips that were undoubtedly feminine. Shocked, he saw the smooth space between his legs and realized that other things had changed.
Laurie turned to him, "C'mon Charlie, it isn't that bad."
He realized that he knew her name somehow. "This is too weird," he said out loud. Charlie reached up and grabbed his throat. His voice, how could those high-pitched tones be his voice?
The next hill passed beneath them and Charlie screamed all the way down into the waiting darkness of the tunnel. This time he felt a gentle pulling on his chest and then something fell in his face. Reaching up he pulled long brown hair out of his face. Charlie had always worn his hair short, but he could feel the small twinge of pain as he gave the curly brown hair in front of him a tug. There was no doubt that somehow, it was now his hair. Another hill, only this time Charlie felt a strange new weight on his chest pulling upward. He looked down and two small breasts were now filling out the pink top. The small nipples quickly grew sensitive and hard as the cool air blew across the thin material of the top.
Charlie didn't try to fight it as they went over the top and happily screamed all the way the last hill. As they dropped into the final tunnel, Laurie reached over and grabbed her hand. Charlie could feel Laurie's hand and knew that she was safe with her. Charlie tried to remember what she was thinking about before the ride started, but she was having too much fun now to worry about it now. They broke into the sun's warmth once more and Charlie stopped screaming and giggled with Laurie as the cars rushed toward the platform.
"That was great. I'm glad you talked me into riding this thing," Charlie said as she caught her breath.
"See I told you the Giggler would be fun," Laurie beamed from the other seat.
The train went up the final hill to the platform and came to a quick stop. "Please exit the train to your left. We hope you have enjoyed your ride on the Screaming Giggler and that it has given you a new way of thinking about coasters," came the voice over the loud speakers.
The four girls poured out of the front cars and made a beeline for the exit. "C'mon Charlie, lets ride it again."
"Yeah, OK, you and Suzy ride in front this time and Laurie and I will take the second seat."
"Are you sure? We don't mind the second seat."
"Once in front is more than enough for me thank you. Hey Laurie, can I borrow your brush?"
"Sure, I love your hair, I wish mine would curl like that."
"I wish mine would straighten out like yours."
"Hey you guys, lets catch a show after this. I hear they have a great musical at the Castle Café."
"Uh huh, sure Charlie, you just want to check those guys in the costumes."
"And you don't?"
"You have a point."
Four screaming gigglers rushed back up into line and road the coaster again. In line they chattered and giggled and yelled to their friends.
That night the St. Felicia School for Girls had a new student board the bus with her roommate and friends. First name -- Charlie.