Funhouse Attraction

Authors: MidnightMadness

Hosted by

1: The Carnival's In Town

Micki looked up at Ryan as he came in the front door, whistling happily. He bounded up the stairs, and she smiled at him from behind the counter, "Something wonderful happen?"

He grinned, "It did! There's a carnival setting up, and this time, there's a dark ride!"

Micki shook her head, smiling. She always thought it was cute when Ryan got so excited about the carnival.

He was grinning from ear to ear, "C'mon, Jack's outta town and I'm sure you'll make a better date than he did last time."

She laughed, "Well, thanks, I think. What is a dark ride anyway?"

Ryan stepped back and recoiled in mock horror, "Micki, you can't be serious," he said, taking a normal pose again," You don't know what a dark ride is? Didn't you ever go to the carnival as a kid?"

She shook her head, "No, not really. I mean, we went once, but my parents weren't the carnival types."

"Aw, come on, Micki, I thought everyone was the carnival type. Let's go to the carnival, Micki, Saturday night, my treat."

She smiled, unable to resist his boyish enthusiasm, "Sure."

Ryan's eyes lit, "Great! You're gonna love it, I promise!"

She shook her head, "And what are you going to do if I don't?"

"You'll love it, no doubt about it. And if you don't, well, then, I'll let you take me to some soirée with your country-club friends some time."

She laughed, "Oh, NOW you have a deal, Mr. Dallion. Sounds like either way I'll have fun."

Ryan grinned, "So, what do you want to hit first? Roller Coaster? Haunted House? Cotton Candy carts? We oughtta save the Dark Ride until later in the day...let the suspense build up a bit."

Micki raised an eyebrow, still smiling "Wow, you've really put some thought into this."

2: Room of mirrors

Micki let out a small scream as Ryan jumped out from behind a warped menagerie of mirrors, "Ryan!" she laughed, looking at her own strangely shaped reflection in the funhouse mirror, "You scared me!"

Ryan laughed and sidled up beside her to look over his now extremely tall, and extremely thin reflection, "So...what do you think...maybe I should work out more often..."

She laughed, "Ryan, c'mon, this funhouse is goofy and I'm getting hungry. Let's head towards the midway and see if we can find something to eat."

Ryan laughed, "I must say, I'm getting hungry too! Let's grab a bite; What would you like to eat?"

"Well, I didn't notice there being a lot of selection here. How about a corn-dog?"

Ryan grinned, "Good choice - there's aren't a lot of other things available." Ryan led the way out, through the maze of mirrors, across the room with the spinning floor, and onto the walk that looked out over the busy carnival. He paused there, looking around, "You know, this is your best chance to see all the rides and attractions. Spot anything you can't live without riding?"

Micki glanced over at him and smiled. Ryan's boyish grin was nearly ear to ear and she had to admit that the view was beautiful. The colorful lights bounced off of the attractions and the rainy street below, making the scene before them glow.

"You know, really is beautiful from up here. And I wouldn't say no to a ride on the Scrambler, followed by a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl."

Ryan looked thrilled and cocked an eyebrow at her, "The Tilt-A-Whirl? Again? Micki, you're a wild woman..."

She giggled, surprising herself more than Ryan, "I love the Tilt-A-Whirl!" She pulled him along behind her as she headed for the exit.

She stopped, unexpectedly, and he almost ran into her, "What's wrong?"

"They don't expect us to..."

"Of course," Ryan said, stepping into the spinning barrel, head down, walking slowly and carefully, just managing to stay on his feet on the way through. Micki followed, and they found themselves on the midway a minute later. Ryan grinned, "Let's go get something to eat, so we can ride Micki's beloved Scrambler and Tilt-A-Whirl one-two punch, with a full stomach!"

"Ryan," she started through laughter, "You are a crazy man! Rides first, then batter-dipped, deep-fried fair entrées."

Ryan couldn't help but smile at the fact that Micki had fused the word entrée with the idea of fair food, "Well, I guess it's true what they say. You can take the girl out of the country club, but you can't take the country club out of the girl."

3: 11 o'clock

Ryan put his arm around Micki's shoulders as they lurched into the darkness of the ride, "The point of the dark ride is for things to jump out at you, to make loud noises and sudden moves. So don't be too scared."

She smiled, pleasantly surprised at his affection, "Don't we get enough scares already?"

"Yes, but these scares, Micki, these are for fun!" he exclaimed the last word much louder than he had intended, as the car dropped a few inches under them.

She laughed, holding onto Ryan to steady herself, "Ryan, I must admit, this a bit creepy. As long as we don't have a cursed doll coming at us, it should be a bit less scary than real life."

Micki let out a small scream as a model of a vampire flew out of a dark corner directly at the car.

The next few minutes of the ride was filled with much of the same: witches, ghosts, ax murderers, zombies - each one catapulted at the small car as Micki and Ryan rode past various scenes of horror.

When they got to the Jack the Ripper scene Ryan leaned over, "Look at the craftsmanship of these figures, Micki! You don't see this kind of quality very often. An under-appreciated art form..."

Micki smiled; it was always art with Ryan. He loved sculpting and he couldn't help but see the artistic in just about any situation.

"They are pretty realistic. But, I'll be happy to get out of this Jack the Ripper room, it's a little too real if you know what I mean."

The small car rolled along for a little while longer, punctuated by shouts from Micki and Ryan as they bumped along through the frightening scenes.

Finally, the car rounded the corner to the exit of the ride and the ride operator came over to lift the safety bar so they could get out.

"Enjoy the ride?" he asked, an unsettling grin spreading across his face.

"Sure did!" Ryan started enthusiastically, "Did you put all of that together yourself?"

The man nodded proudly, "Indeed I did, young man. Took me several years, but I'm happy with the result. Of course, as an artist, I am forever transforming it...always making changes. Come back in a few weeks and it may be a whole new ride on some parts of the track!"

Ryan grinned, "Well, we might just do that. Thanks. Have a good night."

Micki and Ryan made their way down the rickety, steel steps and towards the corn dog cart nearby. They were both chattering on about what a great, but creepy, ride that had been.

Ryan stopped suddenly, seeing a teen couple walking towards them, arguing loudly and not watching where they were going. Ryan stepped back, pulling Micki out of the way with him, but the girl ran into him regardless. "Sorry," she muttered, and continuing arguing with her boyfriend.

Micki shook her head, watching the couple walk away, "Young love can be so tempestuous."

"Speaking from experience?" Ryan asked jokingly.

She laughed, linked her arm in his, and led him towards the food, "That ride really was fun. We'll have to come back before they move on."

4: A Second Trip

It was the next day, Sunday afternoon, when Micki and Ryan went back to the carnival, and they had a great time, waiting again until the end of their trip to go on the dark ride.

One of the rooms had, indeed, changed - the Dracula scene. It was so creepy, and two new victims had been added. As they lurched through the room, Ryan studied the new figures, impressed with the workmanship, and frowned, "Don't they look familiar?"

"Maybe he moved them from another scene," Micki answered, looking at the two new figures.

As they got closer to the figures Micki leaned in for a closer look, straining to see who the figures could be.

The little car lurched forward a few more feet towards the corner that would take them through the exit and Ryan looked over at Micki. There was a tension in the air, and something felt wrong.

Both Micki and Ryan could feel it and by the time they got to the exit, they were feeling jumpy and nervous. More than a little eager to get out of this place.

When Micki felt the safety bar being lifted from them she jumped and let out a small shriek.

The large ride operator let out a throaty chuckle, "I take it those new additions were as scary as I'd hoped they'd be?"

Ryan and Micki forced polite laughs and Ryan finally managed to say, "Yeah, yeah...even more realistic than some of the others."

The man laughed, drawing in another puff of his cigar, "Well, I go for realism, you know. Come back soon."

"Yeah, we will," Ryan said unsteadily, taking Micki's hand and leading her down the steps.

Ryan poured a cup of coffee for himself, and a second for Micki, "What do you think, Micki? Is there something we need to look into?"

"I think we have to, just in case..."

Ryan set two cups of coffee on the table, and went downstairs for the Manifest, and Jack's files of newspaper clippings. When he came back upstairs, he sat down at the table, "Something there really didn't seem right - and those new victims seemed so familiar. I wish I could figure out why."

Ryan's face suddenly grew deadly serious as he stared off into space.

Micki touched his arm, a gentle gesture that almost made Ryan jump, "Ryan? What is it?"

Ryan turned to her, face drained of color, "Oh my God...Micki. It was those kids. The ones who were fighting yesterday, the girl ran into me..."

Micki's brow furrowed and she thought for a moment, then took in a deep breath as a look of concern spread over her face, "Are you sure?"

She had asked, even though she already knew Ryan's answer.

"Yeah, the more I think about them the more positive I am about it."

"So what do we do?" Micki looked disgusted and worried as she pulled the manifest closer to her and opened the front cover.

Ryan shook his head, running his hands through his hair as he always did when he got worried or frustrated, "I don't know. I guess we start with the manifest and see what we can find out. We'll work from there."

5: Back Again?

Ryan threw another ball at the pyramid of bottles, this time knocking over the top one. Micki chose a small stuffed animal, and they wandered off, toward the corn-dog stand. Micki spoke quietly, and Ryan strained to hear her amidst the noise, "I still don't understand the plan."

Ryan gestured to the stuffed animal, a blue spotted elephant, "You saw that sign outside the Haunted Caverns, it says No food or drink, No smoking, No hats, No packages, No stuffed animals. Well, the reason is, these rides, they don't have a very strong driving mechanism. If something like that is on the floor in front of the car, the car will slow down or stop, and I have a few seconds to get out of the car, look around, and get back in."

"Ryan, that's crazy. What if he catches you?"

"Then I run like hell, and you do, too. That rooms pretty close to the entrance - all we'd have to do is follow the track."

Micki shook her head, eyebrow raised in a doubtful expression, "I don't know, Ryan..."

He grinned, putting his arm around Micki and walking to the back of the line for the corn dog stand, "Micki, trust me. This is a great plan. And's our only plan at this point."

She nodded, still looking uncertain as Ryan ordered their food.

"But, what are we looking for exactly?" Micki asked before taking a bite of her corndog; a delicacy that she had quickly gotten addicted to over the past few weeks.

Ryan looked thoughtful for a moment, then looked down at his feet, "Uh, that part of the plan is still a little fuzzy. First, I want to get a look at those new figures. After that...not to sure. C'mon, let's finish eating so we can get to the ride."

And so, half an hour later, Ryan gave the ride operator their tickets. Micki wore a heavy coat in the cold rain, and this gave them extra space under the safety bar. As they rode into the darkness, Ryan put his arm around Micki's shoulders protectively. But as soon as they were inside, Ryan shifted, pulling the blue elephant from his coat and holding it, ready to drop it on the track before them. As soon as they entered the Dracula room, Ryan dropped the stuffed animal, knowing that the track dipped at that point, and this was where the car would slow to a crawl.

As expected, the car slowed to a stop, and he quickly escaped the safety bar, racing up onto the stage to get a better look at the dummies.

Micki watched in horror as he circled them, inspecting them, and touched one of them. He was back in the car just in time - the operator came in with the flashlight, "You folks okay in here?"

Micki answered, "We're fine, but we got stuck!"

"But the view's great," Ryan exclaimed, trying to sound appreciative of the scene before them.

The operator shoved the car backward with his foot, and grabbed the stuffed animal from the track, "Some kids must have dropped this. Enjoy your ride."

"Thanks," they echoed back weakly, feeling uneasy.

By the time their car lurched slowly to a halt, the large ride operator was hovering over them, "Sorry for the glitch back there. If you want a half-price re-ride I'll keep the ride moving for the two of ya."

"Oh, no, thank you," Micki answered quickly, "We'd love to, but we really ought to get going."

"Yeah, but thanks anyway," Ryan chirped in as they practically bolted down the steps.

By the time they got to the car they were practically running. Ryan opened Micki's door, and by the time he got to the driver's side, Micki had unlocked his door. They were on the I94 before Ryan spoke, "They were plastic. Like real mannequins, but that was definitely those two kids. I don't know what item we're dealing with, but we've got to stop it."

"Did you see anything else that seemed strange? I mean, do you think that the item that's behind it is in the ride somewhere?"

Ryan thought for a moment before speaking, "I think whatever it is we're looking for it must have some connection to that weird carny who runs the ride."

Micki nodded, "We'll look through the manifest again. Maybe there's something...carnivalesque in there that we missed."

Ryan shook his head, "I've got a better idea. Tonight, I say we sneak back to the carnival after it closes and get a better look around that dark ride."

6: Laff in the Dark

Micki and Ryan silently crept through the hole in the chain link fence that surrounded the now vacant carnival.

The once playfully flashing lights were off and the happy music that had filled the air was now replaced by the whistling of wind through the old steel of the motionless rides.

Micki shivered as she moved closer to Ryan and whispered, "Do you think he'll still be here?"

Ryan shook his head, "Nah, I saw him head over to that bank of trailers an hour after the park closed, while you were looking for a way in here. I think all the workers live over there." Ryan pointed to a fleet of small trailers that formed a city-like structure at the far edge of the carnival space.

Micki's hand sought Ryan's arm as she heard a strange noise, and he gestured, "Let's get out of the open."

Fifteen minutes later, they were inside the ride. They spent time in each of the scenes, looking at the life-like dummies, as well as all the props. All seemed cheap and shoddy - none of them looked like antiques.

As they made their way through a forest scene, complete with a wolfman prop and a frightened victim mannequin, they froze in their tracks, hearing a noise off in the distance.

At first it was a metallic noise, like the squeaky scraping of steel against steel, followed by footsteps. Someone was in the dark ride with them.

Micki and Ryan bolted for the safety of the fake trees, ducking down beneath a lush grouping of low branches, out of sight from the track.

A very short while later they heard faint voices coming from the entrance of the ride.

"You're new here, so you haven't had a chance to check out all the rides yet."

Ryan leaned over, "It's that creepy operator guy who owns this place," he whispered to Micki.

They strained to hear the second voice, that of a young man, "Gee, thanks Harley, this is great. I've never been on one of these, here, what do you call it...dark rides before."

Harley, the ride operator, chuckled, "Trust me kid, you're gonna love it here. It's a once in a lifetime experience."

Ryan moved forward a bit, despite Micki's yanking on his back belt loop, "Ryan, are you crazy?!" she hissed quietly, "they'll see you!"

Ryan looked back, "No, Micki, look. I have a perfect view from here, through this gap between the walls. By the time the car starts rolling, we'll go back to hiding in the forest back there."

Micki looked uncertain, but trusted Ryan enough to move forward and peer through the gap of the cold steel panels.

They could see Harley and a young man, probably in his mid-20s, checking out all of the painted panels of the entrance and the controls of the main panel where Harley usually sat during open hours.

That's when they saw it.

As the young man looked over the intricately painted panels, Harley took something out from under the podium where the control panels were, and held it up.

It was a figure of a monkey; a doll, about 18 inches tall, covered in fur, mechanized in a way that allowed one of the arms to move.

The young guy turned around, "Say, Harley, whadya got there?"

Harley's face crinkled into a smile, illuminated by an eerie glow from the lighted control panel, "My latest addition, kid."

Harley held the monkey up in front of the young man's face, its thin, bony arm moving in a smooth motion in front of the young man's face.

Before Micki and Ryan knew it, the man was walking towards the entrance of the ride, one foot on either side of the track.

He shuffled down the track and rounded the corner, muttering inaudible words as he moved forward. Micki grabbed Ryan, pulling him back to the forest, and they disappeared from sight just before the young man walked past the forest scene, Harley right behind him.

Then the young man and Harley stopped right in front of the Jekyll and Hyde display. It was the next scene over, around a small corner, so Micki and Ryan had a fairly good view.

The young man walked up to a small table and stopped, reaching for something. By the time he raised it up to the small sliver of light, Micki and Ryan could faintly make out the shape of a bottle.

He took a long drink before dropping it to the ground and letting out an oddly muffled shriek.

They strained to see what was happening, wanting to help the man, but knowing it was too late. Besides, if they got caught, they'd never get the item back; Harley would kill them for sure.

But they had to know what was going on; it was the only way for them to know what they were dealing with here.

Ryan peeked his head over the bushes just in time to see the young man's face and body disintegrating, his exposed skeleton being recovered with a plastic material almost as quickly as the flesh disappeared.

He ducked back down, startled by the cruel, throaty laugh emitted by Harley as he walked up to where the young man lay on the floor.

"Thanks, kid. You're going to help me make this the most realistic dark ride in the country."

With that, Harley propped up the young man and walked out of the structure leaving Micki and Ryan alone in the creepy old ride.

7: Trapped

The ride stopped running, and the lights went out - they were alone in the dark, creepy ride. Micki whispered to Ryan, "How long until we can leave? This place gives me the creeps!"

"We have to be sure he's gone."

They heard the distant sound of rasping chains, and Micki answered, "I think he's gone."

Micki and Ryan slowly made their way through the ride, arms outstretched in an attempt to feel their way through the darkness.

When they finally reached the entrance of the ride, their eyes had begun to adjust to the light and the faint, neon glow of an overhead sign permeated the darkness.

Ryan tried the chains that locked the gate before turning to Micki, "Um...small flaw in my plan. It looks like we're stuck. But good news! I know that Harley opens up a back door to this place for ventilation. In the morning, that is. He opens it from the outside, so he'll never even see us slip out tomorrow."

"That's the good news?" Micki asked incredulously, "We're going to be stuck in this thing all night?!"

Ryan nodded, "We are. We'd better find somewhere to hang out until then."

They walked through the displays, looking through each for a spot to hide that would be comfortable enough.

Finally, they settled on the wolfman scene. It showed a wolfman attacking a group of people in a tavern, and the bar provided the perfect spot for them to hide. Ryan borrowed a towel from the towel-rack in the Psycho scene, and laid it on the cold wooden floor for them to sit on.

They sat behind the bar, beside one another so they could cover up together, under Ryan's long black coat.

"What time is it?" Ryan asked, after they'd gotten comfortable.

Micki checked her watch, "I think it's 1:30, but it's hard to be sure."

Ryan put his arm around her shoulders, and she leaned against him, glad to be near him in the cold, creepy darkness. "Ryan, you really love art, don't you?" she asked suddenly.

"Yeah, I do," he answered. "Why's that?"

"Well, you really love it, and you're really good at it. Why'd you quit college?"

Ryan smiled and was silent for a few moments while he thought. No one had ever really asked him about school or his passion for art, let alone his reasons for leaving school. Micki, though, seemed genuinely interested and waited patiently for his answer.

"Well," Ryan began, still thinking, "I guess life just sort of got in the way. I didn't mind school, really loved my art courses actually...but, with all of the problems I was having with my father, and the fact that I wanted to get away from my old home life, I took off and started a new life. Problem is, I needed to work...had to pay the rent, and you know I love to eat...then by the time I started thinking about going back to college, we got the shop. It just wasn't meant to be right now, you know?"

Micki snuggled closer to him, thinking about how different their lives had been from one another. Micki had never needed to think about money, let alone worry about it. Her cold home life, holidays and birthdays often spent alone while her parents traveled, left her parents feeling just guilty enough to write her large checks in lieu of love and affection.

She looked up at him through the darkness, fumbling for the right words, "Well there are a lot of artists who can't produce true art who have degrees piled up. An education is a poor substitute for talent and creativity."

Micki paused then said quietly, "Ryan, I'm so sorry about how things turned out. I mean, about your father, and..."

Ryan caressed her soft hair absentmindedly and smiled, "Don't be sorry. I've never been happier than I am now. Everything turned out better than I could have imagined. And maybe one day I'll make it back to school. But, even if I don't, I have more than I could have ever dreamed of back then."

Micki laughed softly, "Curious Goods doesn't do that well..."

"But we always have everything we need, and a lot of what we want. When I was growing up, with my Dad always trying to get rich off some scheme or other, those weren't things I could count on."

Micki was quiet, thinking about Ryan - it was easy to picture him, the small boy she'd seen in pictures, often quite serious, wanting for basics. Especially with his mother gone. It was heart-breaking, and she found his hand under the warm coat they shared, "I'm sorry."

He squeezed her hand, "Hey, no problems now, right? We've got a store to run, antiques to collect, wrongs to right - and we have each other."

She smiled, "We do."

There was a short silence, and Ryan asked, "What about you? What did you do in college?"

"I studied pre-law," Micki stated flatly, the lack of enthusiasm for the subject showing in her tone.

"Law?!" Ryan sat up a bit, surprised at her response. He expected art history, fashion (after all, Micki was the most tuned in person to Coture fashion trends that Ryan had ever met), business...but pre-law?

Micki sighed, trying not to laugh at Ryan's reaction, and leaned into him a little more, "I studied something that my parents wanted me to study. Something that I thought would make them proud of me, I guess. Needless to say, they were extremely disappointed when I graduated with a degree in French History. They were, however, thrilled when I met Lloyd the lawyer-to-be."

Ryan shook his head, and when he spoke Micki could hear the smile in his voice, "Lloyd?! How could anyone be thrilled with Lloyd?"

She laughed and poked an elbow gently into his ribs, "I know, I know, but they were. They still are thrilled with him."

"Just because he's a lawyer?"

"That and the only other thing they really care about - money. His paycheck and the fact that his parents turned out to be friends with my parents. They used to go to the country club together."

Ryan snorted, "Ooh, country-club friends! Now there's a winning reason to like someone's son." He sighed, "I can't image wanting my daughter, if I ever have one, to date someone like Lloyd. He's so...bland. So boring. And kinda selfish and mean. Come to think of it, what did you see in him?"

Micki sighed, "I should be mad at you for asking a question like that, but...After he and I broke up, I spent a lot of time asking myself the same question. I think I liked him because he was nice to me, he spent time with me. I honestly believe he loved me...but not enough to withstand the strain the shop put on the relationship."

Ryan smiled and gave Micki a tight squeeze, "Well it's his loss. Someone who truly loves you will stick around. Even when the circumstances aren't perfect. 'for better or for worse,' right? You deserve better than Lloyd. You deserve someone who is going to treat you like the smart, funny, talented, beautiful, amazing woman you are."

By now Micki had tears in her eyes. No one had ever said anything like that to her. In fact, Lloyd had always treated her as his unintelligent arm candy; beautiful to show off to friends, but not much to talk to.

"Thank you, Ryan," she managed to choke out, fighting off tears, "You're always so sweet to me." She hugged him tightly, thankful to be here with him. It was bizarre, but peaceful, and she suddenly realized how little they had known about each other's lives before they met at Curious Goods.

8: Truth or Dare?

A few hours passed and Micki and Ryan were still unable to sleep. So Ryan had suggested that they play 'Truth or Dare?' to pass the time.

They had managed to scrounge up a candelabra from the Phantom of the Opera display and, thanks to the matches Ryan carried in his pocket, a soft glow now filled the room.

It was only 5 candles, not enough to illuminate the entire room and get them discovered by Harley. It was just enough light to take the edge off of the darkness and allow Micki and Ryan to actually see one another.

"Truth or dare?" Ryan asked, grinning.

"Truth," Micki answered again for the second time. She really wasn't a dare kind of person. Ryan, on the other hand, had already humiliated himself by making out with the Wolfman at Micki's request.

She couldn't remember having laughed so hard in her entire life. Ryan sat across from one her, thinking hard for a moment, "Okay, then, how old were you when you first started dating?"

She giggled softly, "Ryan! I was 15 when I went on my first date." She looked at him for a moment, "Well, truth or dare, Ryan?"

He grinned, "Truth."

"Your first truth - I was beginning to think you didn't want to share with me." She thought for a moment, "Have you ever been engaged?"

He seemed to blush, but it was hard to tell in the candle-light, "I was, yes."

"Well, don't you have to tell me about it?"

He sighed, "We started dating in college, and when I stopped attending, she and I kept dating."

"Well, what happened?"

"The shop, to tell the truth. When we inherited the store, I was still engaged. After I found out about the antiques, I told her that I had to stay there, to take care of the duty I had acquired. She didn't understand."

"Why didn't I know about this?"

Ryan smiled a smile tinted with sadness, "While you were away on one of the overnight trips with Jack, just after that run-in with the Coffin of Blood, I went back to talk to her. We argued - she was jealous of the time I had been away, with a pretty redhead, too, and she presented me with an ultimatum - leave the shop, or leave her."

"What happened?" Micki asked softly.

"I told her to keep the ring," Ryan said, his voice sounding unexpectedly harsh.

Micki thought this over - no wonder he had been so upset when Lloyd had made the same ultimatum, and she had given in to his demands, and abandoned what he saw as an undeniable responsibility.

Micki smiled faintly, barely detectable in the candlelight, "Ryan, I'm really sorry."

He looked confused, "About what?"

"Lloyd. I mean, when he came to the shop and wanted me to leave..."

Ryan smiled and took her hand, squeezing it gently, "No need to be sorry, Micki. It was a tough time for you...and it's in the past."

She squeezed his hand back, her smile widening, "Thanks, Ryan. You always know what to say to make me feel better. Okay, truth or dare?"

He laughed, "Oh, nice try, but it's my turn, Miss Foster. Truth or dare?"

She thought for a moment, "Dare."

He looked shocked, "Dare?"

She grinned, "Well, it's only fair. After all, you did just answer a truth question."

He grinned, then thought for a moment, "I dare you to let me kiss you."

Micki stared at him for a few minutes, watching the candlelight flicker in Ryan's big, brown eyes. He was grinning wickedly by now.

"You're adorable when you blush," he said, leaning forward.

His lips touched hers lightly, and the kiss deepened, his lips pressing hard against hers. His hand slipped into her soft, silky hair, and their lips parted, their tongues met. When the kiss finally broke, both were breathing hard, and his eyes met hers for a moment before he kissed her again, leaning closer.

And then, somehow, they were laying together on the floor, kissing passionately. When he broke away, her fingers at the back of his neck tried to hold him to her, but he started kissing her neck, and she moaned in pure ecstacy. He chuckled at the sound, his lips nipping at her earlobe before he whispered, "In college, I was known as the make-out king."

"Prove it," she answered. He kissed her again, a kiss that seemed impossibly long and passionate. His body was warm against hers, even through the warm layers of their clothing, and when he started kissing her neck again, she felt his arm snake around her waist, his hand grasping at her hip.

He made her feel so safe, so cherished, and so attractive. His touch awakened feelings in her, stronger than she'd ever experienced before. She wanted more - she wanted his touch all over her skin, his lips all over her body.

Her leg wrapped around Ryan's thighs and she pressed him against her, feeling the hardness beneath his jeans pressing against her slim body.

She grinned wickedly under the kiss, reaching for the top button of her blouse.

Her tongue swirled through Ryan's mouth, each movement of her tongue causing him to press his lips against hers harder and more desperately than before.

By the time they finally broke the long, hungry kiss, Micki's shirt was unbuttoned and draped open to reveal her soft, full breasts.

Ryan smiled, kissing her softly, "You're beautiful," he murmured as he made his way down, taking one of her hard nipples between his lips.

Micki's back arched and she drew in a sharp breath as his tongue flicked expertly against her flesh.

"Oh, Ryan," she moaned softly, feeling the wet, tingling sensations spreading from between her legs to the rest of her body.

Then, just as she was on the brink of sheer ecstasy, Ryan stopped and moved up teasingly, "Not yet," he said through a grin, reaching down and unbuttoning her jeans.

He pulled them off of her and, as he stripped off her lace panties, his dexterous fingers brushed against her most sensitive spot, eliciting a gasp from Micki's full lips.

His touch was like electricity shooting through every inch of her body, "Oh, Ryan," she moaned as his lips traced down past her breasts to her lower stomach.

His fingers stroked against her as he kissed her lower stomach, her hips, her thighs, and finally, just as she thought she couldn't stand it any more, his lips brushed oh-so-delicately against her soft wetness. She drew a sharp breath, and he chuckled wickedly, beginning to kiss at her, with his lips and his tongue. His attentions were expert, his timing was perfect, and he teased her mercilessly, bringing her to the point of ecstasy only to change his movements and bring her breathlessly back.

"Ryan," she moaned plaintively, and he spoke, brushing his fingers across her flesh as he did, "You want more?"

"Don't stop," she murmured softly.

He began running his tongue across her wetness, and slipped a finger into her, finding just the right spot. "Oh, Ryan," she moaned, and he continued licking at her, slipping a second finger into her, stretching her, rubbing his fingertips along the insides of her.

Her back arched as hot waves of pleasure coursed through her, and she barely had the presence of mind to clamp a hand over to mouth to keep from screaming.

And then he was kissing her again, his mouth over hers, his warm body pressed against her. She reached down, unbuttoning his pants. Her fingers searched for the zipper, found it, and worked his pants and boxers off of him.

He pressed against her, and broke their kiss, "Are you sure, Micki? Once we do this, there's no going back..."

"Yes," she hissed, her hips shifting upward, sliding around him. He was larger than she had expected, a perfect fit, she thought, before his lips pressed against hers again, and her thoughts were lost.

9: Dawn

Micki and Ryan awoke with a start as they heard the clanking of metal off in the distance. The night had been amazing, and they had drifted off to sleep after hours of ecstasy.

Now the dawn light was filtering into the ride and Micki glanced around, her head still on Ryan's chest as it had been while they slept.

They were wrapped up in Ryan's heavy coat, but besides that they were still completely nude.

Micki and Ryan sat up as they heard the back door being unlocked, and scurried to get dressed as quietly as possible.

As Micki silently slipped on the rest of her clothing, Ryan put back the props so that Harley wouldn't suspect anything.

"Ready?" he whispered to Micki as she slipped on her shoes.

She nodded, trying to smooth back her wild red locks which had gotten tousled and tangled during the night.

Ryan smiled at her and kissed her gently as he took her hand, "Thank you for last night," he whispered.

Micki smiled, "Thank you, that was..."


They jumped, hearing Harley unlock the front entrance gate to the ride.

Ryan squeezed Micki's hand and they began to make their way to the back door of the ride.

And then it happened - "Hey!" Harley shouted, as he walked along the path.

Ryan bolted down the track, and Harley chased after him, giving only a moment's glance at the Dracula scene Ryan had been in, not seeing Micki hidden behind the coffin.

There was no sound, and Micki risked a peek over the top of the coffin. She saw Ryan walking forward, his eyes glazed over. She ducked back behind the coffin in time to avoid being seen, and thought fast. She peeked around the coffin again, and saw Harley walk into the next scene. She raced after him, jumping him from behind, and knocking him to the ground.

The burley man wrestled with her, but Micki was quicker, and she managed to get her hands on the monkey. Scrambling to her feet, she looked around, and ran after Ryan, racing in front of him, in view of his empty stare.

Her trembling fingers searched the monkey for a trigger mechanism, and she found it - the monkey's hand came up in a slow wave before Ryan's eyes.

Ryan shook his head, his eyes focusing on Micki, "Wha...what happ..."

"C'mon, Ryan," Micki cut him off, tugging on his arm, the monkey firmly wedged under her arm, "We need to go, now."

Micki made her way towards the back of the ride with a bleary-eyed but awake Ryan right behind her. By the time they got to the end of the Psycho scene, Harley had managed to get to his feet and charged them, knocking the monkey out of Micki's grasp.

"No," she screamed, diving for it. Harley dodged out of the way and started to run with surprising speed.

Ryan caught up with him quickly and, by the time they got to the Creature from the Black Lagoon scene, he was wrestling Harley to the ground, fighting him for the object.

The monkey flew out of the scuffle and Ryan and Harley scrambled to get their hands around it. Harley managed to grab it, laughing at his speed being superior to that of the younger man.

Then suddenly Harley's laugh changed. It turned into a strange, guttural yelp as his hand accidentally hit the switch.

Ryan snapped his eyes shut to avoid looking at the cursed thing, but Harley was not so quick. He gazed at the small arm as it swung to the side and almost immediately a strange, undefinable noise filled the ride.

By the time Micki reached the room Harley was letting out muffled screams as his body smoked and disintegrated into a pool around the ride's track.

After nearly a full disturbing minute, there was silence.

When Ryan felt Micki's slender hand on his arm, he cracked open an eye and surveyed the scene.

There was a pool of green slime that had filled in around the feet of the nearby mannequin - The Creature from the Black Lagoon. At the feet of the monster lay the toy monkey, arm extended in a wave.

Micki helped Ryan to his feet, making certain that he was okay, then the two of them grabbed the monkey and made their way out of the dark ride.

10: Aftermath

Micki put the monkey into the vault, and turned to see Ryan standing there, watching her. He smiled, "I can't remember, Micki, did I tell you last night how much I love you?"

She smiled with uncharacteristic shyness, "You did."

He nodded, "Good. Because I do - I don't know when exactly I realized it, but it's been a long time, now."

She walked to him where he stood in the doorway of the vault, and kissed him lightly, "I love you, too. But I didn't know it until last night..." She sighed, and became silent as a thought crossed her mind, "Ryan, last night, we didn't...we didn't..."

"We didn't what?"

"We didn't...use know?"

He grinned, "I didn't even think about it, I was so distracted by you. But don't worry - I've been fixed. In college, after Rosemary and I had a - false alarm, I decided that I wasn't ready to be a dad, and I wasn't willing to risk it. After we found out about the shop, I was really glad I'd had it done. This isn't the place to raise a child."

Micki's eyes were fairly wide by now, "Honestly, I'm relieved. But, I'm also surprised. You always seemed like you'd be a good dad."

Ryan grinned, "Well, thanks. If I change my mind someday, I can always get it reversed. Although, to be honest, I've always wanted to adopt..."

Micki smiled, "Really? I've always thought about adopting someday, too."

Ryan pulled her close, still smiling, "Another reason that we're a match made in heaven."

Micki laughed softly and stood up on tip-toes to kiss him lightly on the lips, "I love you, Mr. Dallion."

"I love you, too, Miss Foster."