It was like watching a home movie in slow motion. Everything was colored in the golden, hazy light of nostalgia. Watching the sky and the trees go by out the car window, her parents in the front seat, Scottie with her in the back. It was one of the rare times when they didn’t fight or jostle each other for elbow room. They were too happy, too excited.
And then the bridge, and excitement and anticipation about what lay on the other side. They could already see it on the other side, the big red sign, all lit up, shining bright even in the day.
Then they were walking up the path, her and Scottie, hand in hand. She didn’t see her parents, but they had to be there, probably lagging behind. Fern greeted them at the ticket booth, the kindly, chubby old lady with the yellow, thinning curls and the smile ringed in bright red lipstick. “There’s my red-headed girl!” she said by way of greeting. “It’s about time you two were back with us!” She handed Melanie a balloon, which she passed along to Scottie, and waved them both through the gate.
It was always a little overwhelming, at first, walking through that gate and seeing all the rides, and the people, and not knowing where to start. “Pistol Whip! Pistol Whip!” Scottie shouted, but Melanie insisted that they start with the sky ride, so they could get the lay of the land, even tough they both knew the place by heart. The rode the gondolier up, up above the midway, past the steep hills and dips of the Pistol Whip, past the ferris wheel and the Zipper, over the log ride that gave the park its name. Down below, standing over the crowd, she could see the tall man in the ringmaster suit, beckoning visitors over to the side show tents. Something about him always made her uneasy, with his stilt limbs that made him so tall, and his face that she could never quite make out behind the thick, handlebar mustache and the monocle he always wore.
They never went to see the side show. They always stuck to the midway, and the rides.
And then they were back on the ground, and she was leading Scottie by the hand to the roller coaster he was so eager to ride. But when she looked down at him, he was gone, and her hand was empty. She looked around, and couldn’t see him anywhere. “Scottie!” she shouted, and kept shouting as she ran through the crowd, searching frantically for her little brother, who she was supposed to be keeping an eye on.
She ran all the way to the side show tents, and almost ran into the tall man from behind. He turned to look down at her, towering over her. He stooped down, and as she backed away, she could see his face clearly for the first time. It was Scottie’s face, his teen-aged face, the way he’d looked the last time she saw him. “Come on in, Sis,” he said, beckoning her toward the tents. “Come find me inside.”
Melanie opened her eyes and blinked at the darkness of her bedroom. Her heart pounded in her chest, and her throat felt dry. She sat up and looked at the clock on her night stand. It was only 3:30. She got out of bed and trudged quietly to the bathroom, where she rinsed her face and drank some water.
Back in her room, she quietly shut the door, and made her way over to the desk. She booted up her computer without bothering to turn on a lamp. She had watched the video of her brother half a dozen times that evening, and wasn’t sure why she felt compelled to watch it again.
The dream was still vivid in her memory as she sat down and pulled up the video file. That in and of itself was unusual. She usually forgot her dreams almost immediately after waking. But this didn’t feel like a dream. It felt more like a forgotten memory. What was weirder, it awakened other memories. She had been to Eucha Falls as a child. She recalled it so clearly now, dozens of trips there with her brother, stretched over years.
She knew it was impossible. But she remembered, all the same.
She opened the file and clicked the play button. Her hands flew to her mouth as the video began to play.
She saw Scottie and Jeff, same as before. But this time, she could see what they saw. She saw the sign, lit up and working fine. She saw Fern, and she saw rides, and she saw people. It was all there, and Scottie had filmed it. Why couldn’t she see it before?
Scottie hadn’t imagined it, and neither had she. And here was the proof.
And as certainly as she knew that she had been there, she knew that that’s where she would find her brother.
Cover photo: Juska Wendland
Cover design: The Book Wrangler