“Matt, seriously? Candy floss?!” – Jess looked from the cloud of sugar to Matt’s face and couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes – “and you’re wearing some of those ears?!
“Mmmm” – replied a widely grinning Matt, mouth covered inside and out with a sticky pink mess.
“Well, if you’re all sorted, can we get on with the plan?” – muttered Jess.
“Mmyes.” Taking a sip from a can ” Damian is late, anyway, we might as well make the most of it.” He pulled out another chunck of fluffy sugar, rolled it into a ball between thumb and two fingers, threw it in the air and caught it in his mouth in a swift motion.
Looking at her watch, Jess asked: ” have you heard from Damian at all?”
“No, but he’d said that 6pm would be cutting it close for him, he usually finishes late on Thursdays. He should be here anytime.”
“Ok… Give me a bit of that then.”
Smiling, Jess pushed a large piece of the sugary fluffy mass into her mouth.
They stood between the hot dogs and the donuts stalls, tucked out of the way from the crowds.
August was always a busy month in town but this year, with the Elf Wonderland taking over the old pier’s carpark, it seemed like the whole of the district was trying to visit the fair.
All staff had pointy ears and clothes out of Lord of the Rings, with visitors being encouraged to put on some pointy ears of their own, just like the ones Matt was wearing.
“Where did you get those silly ears, anyway?” Asked Jess.
“They give them away everywhere. I’m surprised you haven’t got some as well? The guy almost put them on me himself.”
“Maybe I got away because of my long hair…”
They stood in silence, looking at the crowds and counting how many punters where sporting fake ears.
Looking sideways at Jess – ” you might actually be right on that one. Oh, and there’s Damian….
“with pointy ears.” Jess finished. “You can’t say that there isn’t something fishy going on here…”
“Damian, mate, glad you made it. We were starting to worry we would have to try another night.
Pulling the fake ears out, Damian looked down from his 6’4: “Sorry man, it’s tricky on Thursdays. Hi Jess. Sorry I’m late.”
“No worries. We’ve still got 30 minutes, should be enough. And put those ears back on, we don’t want to attract attention.”
Matt replied: “She’s right on that one. We’ll explain later”.
“Oh well, here they go on again.”
They walked quickly to their goal, the dark ride, and were just in time to buy the last tickets of the evening.
They sat down, seatbelts in place, and waited for the ride to start. It wasn’t long before the train entered the massive tree trunk where the ride took place. They were meant to be having a glimpse of the inside of an Elf’s Home, all symbiotic with the tree. Supposedly the Elf would sing to the tree and if it allowed him to dwell in it, the tree would reply by growing living spaces, windows and doors. The information outside the ride explained that growing an Elf home could take a few hundred years and most elf’s would start working on theirs from an early age, so it would be ready when they left their parents.
Jess had done the ride once before and chosen the spot where they would jump out of the train. Matt and Damian had not been to the park but they had been quite willing to come along with her, for old times sake and all the adventures they used to get up to over summer holidays.
The had been on the ride for some time and the train was just turning left, leaving behind the bedroom, all diaphanous hammock made of slender roots and light green leaves. She squeezed Matt’s hand and looked back at Damian, signalling for them to be ready. They were seating in the last carriage and, because it was the end of the day, most of the train was empty, which really worked out in their favour.
“Now” – she wispered.
Hidden by the shadows, right at that bend, there was a wooden door that – she hoped – would take them inside the attraction and provide them with a hideout until the park closed down. And then they could explore and she would find out why she had that nagging feeling that something was not quite right. She couldn’t explain it in a very coherent way – and she hadn’t even tried when enlisting Matt and Damian’s assistance, just saying she had a “feeling” about the place and reminding them of all the fun they’d had following her hunches, growing up.
From that first day she’d walked past the theme park and had bumped into one of the “elfs” she had had that feeling. He smelled mossy. He was wearing those same pointy ears and LOTR clothes. And she would swear that underneath his long cloack she’d seen the glitter of metal – a sword at his back? And then there was the matter of his eyes. His eyes were what really made her want to see what was going on. She would swear they had been yellow with a diagonal iris, just like a cat’s. He seemed to have been confused about something and rested his hand on her wrist. Jess felt a strange warmth running up her arm. It wasn’t unpleasant but it was out of the ordinary. “Are you all right?” – she’d asked – “I’m sorry I bumped into you, I was too distracted with your lovely theme park.”.
I must be tired, he replied, I didn’t feel y…. I mean, I didn’t hear you coming.”
“Well, that’s only normal, you guys must have worked really hard to get this all set up in such a short time. Was it 2 days ago you arrived in town?”
“Oh, we’re well used to it by now. Nomadic lives for so long, it’s second nature.”
“Well, I am looking forward coming over one of this nights to visit.” Jess smiled and moved away, immediately missing the warmth that had been emanating from his touch. He seemed to continue staring at her with a puzzled look on his face, she waved good bye and walked on.
But she couldn’t stop seeing those eyes in her mind. She would swear that they had been different. Even if just for a few breaths. When she first bumped into him they had not been green.
And now she was here. Matt and Damian at her back, in a pitch black, moss smelling platform, trying to open what she really hoped was a door…
“Let me have a go?” Damian asked – he stretched his long arm over Jess’s shoulder, touched the wood and fell flat on the floor.
“What the fuck?!” Matt shouted, whilst narrowly avoided being crushed by their giant friend.
Jess turned around and fear crossed her face at the sight of Damian’s body sprawled down. “Oh gods, is he ok?”
Matt was kneeling down, checking for a pulse, but they both could now hear a faint snoring coming out of Damian’s figure.
Matt looked up at Jess, his face screaming incomprehension, and jumped up, throwing his shoulder against the door frame… Only to slumber slowly, fast asleep, onto the floor as well.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck” – Jess’s mind was racing, trying to make sense of what was going on – “I’ve touched the door before they did, hell, I’m touching it now and I’m not falling asleep. What’s going on?!”
She was not only touching, she was banging her fists with all her strength against the door, trying to get anyone’s attention. She didn’t care for hiding out or having to come out with an embarrassing excuse any longer, she just wanted her friends to be well – and for someone to explain what was going on.
“Help!” – a soft click and her fist being gently stopped mid-air by a strong hand. In front of her two elfs – a couple? It was too dark to make features out – stand at the same height, looking very puzzled to find her there. Or at least to find her awake?
“Get someone to take those two home” – a female voice, so she had been at least half right there – “I’ll take this woman with me for now”.
And too shocked to react, Jess let her self be led away, into the depths of the dark ride.