Ride of Your Life
By- Shevi Arnold
Seventeen-year-old Tracy Miller met the love of her life . . . thirty years after her own death.
Tracy was working at the House of Horrors at the Amazing Lands Theme Park when the fire broke out. Instead of running, she lost her life trying to save eleven-year-old Mack. Now thirty years have passed, and suddenly everything changes with the arrival of two new ghosts: a little girl named Ashley and a cute, seventeen-year-old boy named Josh. Josh would do anything for Tracy, but can he help her let go of the past?
Ride of Your Life is a bittersweet, romantic, YA ghost story that was inspired by a true event, the Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire, which killed eight teenagers in 1984, exactly thirty years ago this May 11th. It is a fantasy novel about undying love, and it won third-place in Smart Writer’s Write It Now (W.I.N.) contest in the YA category, which was judged by Alex Flinn, the author of Beastly and Cloaked.
Hang on. Love can be as terrifying as a roller coaster, but it can also be the Ride of Your Life.
Additional information about the Six Flags Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haunted_Castle_(Six_Flags_Great_Adventure)
And here is an excerpt from 'Ride of Your Life' -
“Smell that?” Mack asked, his eyes shining bright.
Tracy took a sniff of the hot summer air. She smelled the usual: popcorn, soft pretzels, cotton candy, ice cream, hot dogs and sweat. She shrugged. “Someone burned the hot dogs. Big deal.”
“That’s not hot dogs,” Mack sang. He darted toward the kiddy rides, letting the crowd pass through him. Mack never paid attention to anything in his way. Tracy sometimes told him off for doing that, but a part of her admired his ability to experience everything he wanted. She admired him even more for being able to ignore the rest.
Tracy sniffed the air again. It definitely smelled like burnt meat, but there was something different about it, something familiar. Memories pricked the back of her neck as images flashed in her mind.
She remembered the flames grabbing the ceiling, like fingers trying to claw their way out of the House of Horrors. Thick, dark smoke choked her. Skinny eleven-year-old Mack felt so heavy as she desperately pulled his limp body along the wall. Why didn’t the emergency doors have a lit sign over them? Why couldn’t she feel the bars that went across to push them open? She remembered coughing, gasping for air. She remembered her heart beating faster and faster.
And then she realized what the smell was.
Mack was right. It wasn’t the smell of burnt hot dogs. It was the smell of death.
“Oh, God . . .” Tracy ran after Mack, but she weaved between the people. She hated walking through anything, though it didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel like anything at all, which was the worst part of it. It was a reminder that she was nothing. She had no real body, no life. She was as empty as the air.
She quickly glanced at the Ye Olde Photographs booth. It was shut. Halley—the one living person Tracy could talk to—wasn’t there. Tracy was on her own.
Racing through the park felt like stepping through a surreal painting and finding herself in a place on the other side that was perfectly normal, though it had no right to be. People walked at their usual pace, laughing and chatting, sipping giant cups of cola, biting into soft pretzels, reading maps of the Amazing Lands Theme Park, and checking out flyers with a list of the day’s scheduled events. Where was the panic? With the smell of death in the air, shouldn’t there be panic? Shouldn’t people be shouting? Shouldn’t there be sirens?
But then she remembered the last two times people had died in the park. The smell came first, though now it was much more intense. Perhaps there was some way she could prevent this death from happening. Where the hell was that smell coming from? Mack knew. He always knew. If she followed him, he would lead her straight to it. She went through the brightly painted gates to Fairy-Tale Fun Land and spotted Mack by the line for Beatrice’s Bunny Hole. When he saw Tracy, he smiled and pointed at a little girl.
Oh, God, no. The little girl couldn’t have been more than six. Her hair was long, curly and brown. A smile spread across her little face. She playfully tugged her mother’s hand . . . and she reeked of death. Life just wasn’t fair. Why did it have to be such a little kid? Why should kids ever have to die?
Mack grinned. “Fresh meat.”
“I want to go on the bunny ride,” the little girl said, her voice high and sweeter than cotton candy.
Her mother sighed. “All right, all right.”
“No!” Tracy screamed.
The child’s mother looked red and green at the same time. Tracy guessed she had already had too much of the sun and of the park for one day.
“You can go on the ride,” the child’s mother said. “I’ll wait for you on the bench over there by the entrance.”
Beatrice’s Bunny Hole was a kiddy ride. Even toddlers went on it. How could such a tame ride kill this beautiful little girl? And then Tracy realized exactly what was going to happen.
“Please, don’t let her get on that ride!” she screamed hysterically into the mother’s ear. “Please, please, please. It’s dark in there. She’s going to get scared, and she’s going to try to get off, and when she does she’s going to get caught in the mechanism that pulls the cars forward! Please, if you let her on that ride alone, she’s going to die. Please, you don’t want to let that happen. Please, please, please, don’t let her die!”
Mack laughed again. “Tracy, you idiot, she can’t hear you.”
Tracy shot Mack a dirty look.
“Okay.” Mack shrugged. “Be my guest, but you are just wasting your breath. Or you would be if you had any.” He grinned.
God, Tracy thought, I hate when he does that! Being dead is one big joke to him! But now was not the time for another of their many arguments. She continued to beg the child’s mother and tried to grab the little girl. Tracy’s fingers slipped through the girl’s tiny shoulder, over and over, as Tracy knew they would. The girl seemed apprehensive as she stepped into the bright yellow bunny car with its big, baby-blue eyes. She looked at her mother but didn’t say a word.
“Have a good time,” said the little girl’s mother with a smile and a wave.
“Please, stop her!” Tracy screamed into the woman’s ear. “She’s going to be killed! Don’t you understand that? Please. Oh God, oh God, oh God . . .”
The smell of death went with the little girl into Beatrice’s Bunny Hole. The line of cars stopped for the next passengers. The little girl was probably just behind the cute bunny-hole door, with its painted wooden boards, flower garland and the sign that read, “Beetris Bunee’s Howz,” with the Bs and the Z backward. The little girl was so close, and yet there was nothing Tracy could do to help her now.
Tracy turned away, bent over, and squeezed her eyes shut. She felt like she was going to throw up. Although her body was just an illusion—a figment of her own imagination—it still trembled. She put one hand down on the concrete path to steady herself as she sat down.
“You coming?” Mack asked. “Should be a great show.”
“You’re sick,” Tracy spat out at him.
“You think it’s terminal?” He laughed and put one arm all the way up to his shoulder through the bunny ride’s wall.
Tracy shot him another dirty look. He shrugged again.
“You don’t know what you’ll be missing,” he said before disappearing into the ride completely.
Tracy hugged her knees to her chest. She didn’t wipe the tears from her cheeks. There were too many of them, and they were still coming. She felt helpless and useless. She couldn’t save Mack then, and couldn’t save the little girl now. She couldn’t even save herself.
Her nose was running, so she blew it on the sleeve of the gauzy white costume she had worn when she had worked in the House of Horrors: a poncho-type thing with frayed ends that reached the knees of her jeans.
She took another sniff in the air. The smell of death was still close to her side, very close and very strong. It didn’t make any sense. The little girl was on the ride, and the smell had gone with her. Ghosts didn’t smell like death. The smell could only come from someone who was still alive and about to die. Maybe the little girl had got out. Maybe . . .
Tracy looked up with a spark of hope. But the little girl wasn’t there. Instead Tracy saw the next two people in line.
They were what the girls at her high school would have called “a cute couple.”
The girl had her hand around the boy’s waist, but he didn’t seem too happy about it. If anything, he seemed embarrassed. There was a hint of a blush on his face, and he struggled to keep his smile. The right side of his mouth held the pretense, but the left side curved downward. The smell of death was coming from him. The teenage girl’s Day-Glo pink halter-top was too small, and she had a very short denim skirt. She hopped into the next bunny car—one in a shade of pink that clashed with the pink of the halter-top—and patted the place on the seat beside her.
“I can’t believe you chose a kiddy ride,” he said, running his fingers through his thick, brown hair.
“You and me alone in the dark?” The girl smiled. “Trust me—this isn’t going to be a kiddy ride.”
Yuck! Tracy tried to shake the girl’s words out of her head and leaned in close to the boy’s ear.
“Look, I know you can’t see me,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “And I know you probably can’t hear me, but maybe somehow I can get you to feel what I’m feeling. If you get on this ride, you are going to die. You have to listen to me! If you get on this ride, you are going to die. If you . . .”
The boy stepped through Tracy into the pink bunny car and lowered the safety bar. Tracy put her hands on the part of the bunny car door that was the pink bunny’s ear and moved alongside it.
“Please,” she said. The boy looked straight ahead at the door to the ride, oblivious to her. “Please, stop this. Tell the ride attendant you want to get off. Tell the ride attendant . . . !”
The pink bunny car went through the door. Tracy pulled her hands away when she realized she had partly gone through the wall. What could she do now?
About the Author-
Shevi Arnold grew up in Philadelphia, and her family had a season pass to Great Adventure in the early 1980s. She was nineteen-years-old and studying overseas when a fellow college student asked her if she had heard about the Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire. Eight teenagers had lost their lives. Like many, Shevi was shocked by the news. In her mind, she wanted to give that tragedy a happy ending. Ride of Your Life is the result.
Shevi loves writing, illustrating, and making people laugh—and she’s been doing all three since 1987 when she started working as an editorial cartoonist for a newsweekly. She’s also worked as a comics magazine editor, as an arts-and-entertainment writer specializing in comedy and children’s entertainment, and as a consumer columnist. Nowadays, though, she enjoys writing (and sometimes illustrating) humorous fiction, fantasy, and science fiction for children, teens, and geeks of all ages. Her other books include Toren the Teller's Tale, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey, and Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one). She is currently working on Why It Still Mega Bites, the second book in the Gilbert the Fixer series.