The children cling to Red and Mickey, their affection free of pretense. In the wild, this would seem absurd — prey embracing their predators — but in an amusement park it’s…cute. These kids have been to parks like this before, been conditioned to drop their guard around symbols of innocence. I know where this is going, but I can’t stop it. Not yet.
I wink at Red and Mickey, unsheathe my sword.
“Yar,” I holler, hobbling toward the children. They scream and huddle closer to Red and Mickey. I swish my sword, bare my teeth and lean in. “You’re all gonna walk the plank if you don’t give back me treasure.”
A scowling little girl with blond pigtails steps forward. “We don’t know where it is,” she says, kicking me in the shins. “Leave me and my friends alone.”
The pain is quick and crisp.
“Yar, I know when I been licked.”
I slink away, praying that she’s shrewd enough to escape. When I glance back, she seems at ease. Maybe even happy. She sticks her tongue out to taunt me. I nod at her, signaling respect and defeat.
Rollercoaster cars whiz past me with screaming boys in tow. Tea cups spin in dizzying orbits. The idle carousel glows.
The air tastes like salt water and funnel cake as I walk past the concession stands, behind the Ferris wheel, and into the mouth of a clown. Funhouse mirrors spread down the walls like accordion ridges, distorting my image in dozens of iterations. Yellow rope lights line the dusty floor. A trap door creaks open at the end of the hall.
“Who are you hiding from?”
The door slams shut.
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone you’re here.”