together early that afternoon. Billy pronounced it “Neat!” I
began to feel cheated. So later that afternoon I found myself
climbing into one of the little boats of doom next to Cindy
myself, following her reassurances to my mom that there was
nothing all that scary inside. Uh huh. Not that it would have
mattered. Part of the “stone” sea wall had a hole knocked roughly
in it and the boats passed through this, up a slightly inclined
tunnel of black corrugated metal and “crash!”. I heard it. I
felt it. “Crash! “ again, and I smelled the rush of unique Ghost
Ship air. This was the smell of an evil and haunted place for
sure! Old wood, creosote, stale water, dampness, mold…monsters
and entities from the deep sea! Oh man! I couldn’t see them,
but I knew they were there, leering, inches away! I wouldn’t
look! They couldn’t hurt me if I didn’t see them, right? Right?
Oh, but the sounds! The sounds were overwhelming! The ringing,
laughter, screaming! The rush and bubble of water all around!
Now another “crash!” and our boat jolted. More doors? Something
worse? Well, we sure weren’t out of this yet, because nothing
even resembling daylight was showing through my clamped lids!
Something else. Flashing light! No idea what that is and don’t
wanna know! Several more “crashes!” Don’t know how many. Now
I hear running water again and it’s right in front of us! Oh…
“Crash!” Dry daylight!
“You, uh, can open your eyes. We’re
outside now.” Relieved, but…well…disappointed too. Five or six
more rides that afternoon, all pretty much the same. At one
point Billy wanted to ride with me, but that one I declined.
He was a year younger than me. How could he protect me from
what I wasn’t seeing but knew was there? Two more rides with
my dad that night, eyes closed I wanted a third.
“Okay, but try to keep your eyes open
this time. Will you?”
Easier said than done as the
little yellow light bulb above the “No smoking” sign next to
the tunnel flashes and the small bell next to it “briiiing”s.
I look at the nice lady in the red striped shirt sitting next
to that ominous control panel. If…when she presses that one
button… She smiles at me, presses the button… Off we go, forward
a few feet past her. Quick right turn. Through the wall and
up the incline. God, I can smell that haunted air already and
this is all such a bad idea! “Crash!” The damn doors are closing
behind me and I can’t get out of here now no matter what! Next
set of doors right in front of me, and there is a stupid windshield
wiper hanging on one of ‘em! I don’t know why. I don’t care!
I have much worse to deal with right now. “Crash!” What is this?
I’m in a long hallway with greenish glowing support beams all
around me! And I think I spoke (or yelled) my question out loud,
too, because my dad, reassuring hand on my knee says
“It’s the ship’s hold. The cargo area.”
It seems like it’s going to go
on forever. It sure looks that way as the screams and evil laughter
boom around me. But then there is a sharp right turn into deeper
blackness with what looks like more glowing green beams ahead.
But “crash!”--through another set of doors and the corridor
ahead rolls dizzyingly. My little boat is passing through the
center of a large, eerily illuminated spinning barrel. There
is something waiting beyond that I can’t…quite…see… Then I come
out of the barrel and a light blazes on. A large, angry sailor
is sitting at a long rough plank table reaching for his mug.
The table tilts and the mug slides beyond his grasp. I am looking
at him and he is definitely looking at me, his mouth wide in
an outraged but silent shout. Is he angry about the mug or at
me for being here? I never find out because my boat veers quickly
to the left and winds through the ceiling-support beams of one
of the ship’s cabins. Through a window I see the raging ocean
outside, and I notice we are riding very low in those waves!
To the right out of the cabin and into a short, dark hallway.
Abrupt left hairpin turn in pitch blackness and to my right,
lurking in a recess, is a vicious looking “man” with the claws
of a lobster and the body of a serpent! The claws open and close
greedily and his head, which has antennae on it like a lobster’s,
turns left and right. Seeking. His mouthful of pointed teeth
are no less worrisome than those claws, but he doesn’t seem
to notice as I slip by. Sharp right and I see, of all things,
a sheeted skeleton sitting in an outhouse lit by a flickering
lamp mounted on the wall inside! He obviously doesn’t like being
watched and rudely slams the door! Moving now down a long corridor
that seems to end on a decrepit wooden dock, the open sea beyond.
As I get nearer, something…something wearing a hooded robe and
trailing what appear to be shackles and chains rises beyond
the far end of that dock, glowing with bluish and reddish light
and flies toward me! Oh god…!
My boat swings a right turn and
the terrible thing is gone but…what now…ahead of me is what
looks like a wall of stone glowing purplish-black. Above this,
absurdly, sits a skeleton on a scaffold, bandanna tied around
his bald white head, sailor’s uniform in tatters. In his hand…is
that a paintbrush? Yep. And there is a sloppy can of red paint
on the plank next to him. What could he possibly be painting
in this place? The scaffold he sits on slowly begins to tilt
and my stomach is in my throat as I realize, with shock, two
things. First, my boat is going to crash into this fast approaching
wall! Second, ridiculously, I’m going to be drenched with paint
as it does! I look up and scream hopelessly as red paint (well,
actually now that I get a look at it more like a red rag on
a wire) gushes from the bucket toward me — and stops — as my
little boat crashes through a set of doors that only looked
like a wall. My dad—oh, he’s still with me thank god!—chuckles.
I wonder what is supposed to be so funny.