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The Halloween Project 2019 Story 3: Hangtime Stall

Let's go to an amusement park. Wait. Let's not.

"I can't. I can't. I can't. I can't. I can't!" Randy's heart rate blossomed with the anxiety in his voice. His small posse of friends; Nate, Christian and Rebecca chided him. "Come on, dude. Don't pussy out on us," Nate challenged. "Nate!" Rebecca slapped him on his shoulder. "My bad, I'm sorry," Nate replied. "Really?!," Rebecca persisted. "No, really, my apology," Nate continued, "But Randy, come on, you can do this. This is an amusement park. Look, it's a beautiful night! Clear sky, stars out! This is Six Flags!" he gestured with both arms as if he owned the entire park. "More like Sick Flags," Rebecca added. "Yeah, this is sick alright!" Nate exclaimed, "and this," his gesture grew grandiose and he added a deep bow,"is the Wicked Cyclone!" Christian spoke for the first time his voice echoing reverence. "This is...the Wicked Cyclone. It's a hybrid roller coaster. Its top vertical height is 109 feet, not really all that high. Superman coaster over there has a 221 foot drop. Cyclone has three inversions and 14 airtime hills. It's not really all that fast. Top speed is only 55 miles per hour. But what it does have is the world's first double reversing banking airtime hill and,...and this is the most amazing, the world's first hangtime stall." "You are such a geek!" Nate exclaimed. "Actually, I'm really not. What I am is a roller coaster aficionado," Christian countered. "A fishy what?" Nate asked. "A roller coaster geek," he replied and they all returned their attention to Randy. They coaxed and bribed. They pushed and complimented. Rationalized. Implored. Randy started to weaken, offering soft excuses. "You guys go and I'll wait here." Nate: "See the sign? The wait line is 45 minutes." "I'll throw up." Rebecca: "I'll probably throw up. No blame here." "I'm afraid. I hate roller coasters. They're everything I hate. Fast. Upside down, twisting, turning." Christian: "It's a roller coaster for God's sake. And like I said, it's not that fast. We were going a lot faster than 55 when we drove up here." "It'll crash. We'll all die," Nate looked at the sky then over at the Wicked Cyclone. Christian simply stared at the coaster. Rebecca grabbed Randy's hand, "Here's what we'll do. It's two people next to each other. I'll sit with you Randy, you can grab my hand, you can close your eyes, you can scream because I'll be screaming my head off. We'll do this together." Randy raised his eyes to hers. She was a friend, but he liked her. Liked her a lot. She smiled that goofy, half crooked smile that he loved. A moment passed. "O.K.," he said simply, the measure of his reluctance equal to his fear. In 50 minutes they were seated in their car, restraining mechanism locked in place. Randy could feel his heart tripping a drum staccato. "Wow! This is going to be awesome!" Nate yelled. Christian beamed. They were seated in the car behind Randy. Rebecca offered her hand and asked, "You O.K.?" "No, not really," and he grabbed her hand, squeezing, then squeezing more. The coaster jolted into a slow movement and in a few seconds began its precipitous incline. "No. No. No. No. No! NO!" Randy's voice rose mirroring the height. The ride truly began with the first steep descent then quickly devolved into corkscrews, turns, inverted loops and head jerking left and right turns. Screams emanated everywhere. The car in front seemed ready to careen off the tracks. Behind he could hear Nate whooping and hollering. And the hangtime stall. Nothing for 90 feet below to the concrete foundation. The coaster flexed back and forth, back and forth, slowed and stopped. Upside down. Screaming continued then diminished. Yells and exclamations poured out. Randy continued, "NO! NO!" Rebecca tried to reassure, "It's O.K., we're good," and she squeezed his hand even harder. Five seconds, 10, 20, 30. From behind, Christian said, "Something's wrong." Nate yelled, "Holy shit! The blood is rushing to my head." "No," Randy managed through clenched teeth. An announcement, louder than any scream reverberated through the steel beams and corkscrews of the ride. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing a technical difficulty with the ride that will be resolved in just a few seconds. Please remain calm." A single minute stole away. 30 more seconds. A girl somewhere in the back screamed, a panic scream, not a yelp of excitement or contained fear. "This is bad, very bad," Christian announced. "This is crap," Nate declared. Randy snapped a quick glance at Rebecca. Her eyes were grimaced shut, she was breathing hard. Another three minutes curled passed. "Ladies and gentlemen, our technicians are working on this problem and will resolve it momentarily." A man in the far front yelled, "Get me the fuck down from here!" Randy said, "I'm getting out!" Rebecca's head snapped toward him, eyes wide, her tubular restraining cage still holding her body taut against the seat. "What?!" she managed. "I'm climbing down. They're not going to get this thing started. I'm getting out," Randy blurted out. "No, you can't! No!" Rebecca yelled. A long minute ran. "I can. I'm climbing down," Randy reached into his pocket, despite the gravity flowing blood from his legs to his shoulders, arms and head. He took out a tool; small, but thick. At first Rebecca thought it resembled a jackknife, but it had compartments, blades and a number of accompanying tools. A man in back screamed, "My wife has passed out! Help! Somebody help us!" "See!" Randy shouted, "I should have never come. I can get out of here, climb along the rail. I have to!" He began fumbling with the locking mechanism. He tried one tool, then another. The device slipped from his finger but he caught it quickly. Screams turned to moans. He played with the device. He found a key type metal tool that fit into the lock. Twisting, turning, his wrist and fingers started to lose feeling and go numb. One strong leveraged twist and he heard a snap. The metal restraining cage popped open sharply on its efficient spring loaded gear. Randy dropped from his seat, a human rock propelled from a height. Rebecca screamed. So did Nate and Christian. Randy plummeted the 90 feet in just under three seconds. By the time he crumpled into a shattered mass on the cement below he was falling at 50 miles per hour, just a bit slower than the highest speed of the Wicked Cyclone which jerked into a metal belch when the cars began to move.

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