The Beggining of the End

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Baxter's Bemusement Park

The man's eyelids slowly drifted open. The sky was pale and packed with clouds. Where the hell was he? Lax clusters of gravel grazed his cheek and gnawed at his bare knees. He wasn't where he should be. He pushed himself from the ground, his head dense and unsteady. He was in a ditch. He looked frantically around, trying to identify his surroundings. A disarray of memory flooded through his head; a tangle of gowns, croaky laughter, the sharp hum of champagne glasses clinking together, the intense glow of the chandelier draped from the sweeping height of the ceiling. Some snob's party, the man thought. The man looked down at himself. A shredded tuxedo. Mud decorated the white satin giving his skin a sickly, ashy colouring. Was it his party?

A cloud smothered sun struggled to light up a lonesome gravel road directing the man towards a cluster of ominous buildings. How he got here, the man did not know, but he knew it wasn't for a good reason when he had to keep sweeping blood from his eyes to see where he was going.

The man followed the trail, the buildings coming into focus as he stumbled onwards. It was an amusement park. An old one, totally left to rot. Probably from a good fifty years ago, the man thought. Yet it was the only thing rising above the ground for miles, not even a single shrub pierced the cloud swathed horizon. As soon as the man got close enough to touch the cobwebs draping the barbed fence, he heard a large groan erupt from a rust covered Ferris wheel. He jumped back from the entrance, his eyes darting to find the source of the sound. But the groan didn't stop; instead it increased in volume. He stood nailed to the spot, could this be the person who left him alone on the gravel to rot along with this park?

The man laughed. His voice sounded alien, new to him. He didn't recognize his voice.
The groan from the Ferris Wheel morphed into a whine and then a gradual tone and beat emerged. It was music. The sound churned away, crackling from a tarnished speaker strapped to a bar of the Ferris Wheel. Stupid. The man thought, to be scared of music, and so he climbed over the fence.

Then the lights flickered on.

Someone must be here. Someone must be playing some kind of trick. The man turned to the fence to leave when he discovered that it had vanished entirely, swept clean off the ground. The ground. Even the ground had changed, the once dry and desolate gravel was now coated in lush green grass and scattered with sweet wrappers and abandoned stuffed animals. The man spun around as he felt something graze his shoulder.

A young girl with vivid blonde hair curling down her shoulders clutched a single red balloon in her hand as she skipped along the fairground. She was the only breathing thing he'd seen all day and he ran after her, following her swaying path through the rusted grey buildings towering over them. His vision was clouded red in one eye and he found it continuously harder to see. Her distorted giggles bounced about empty corridors as his shrill cries for her to stop and help him became hopeless. She ducked into a once extravagant doorway that was now barely held on its hinges. He watched her golden ringlets shake as she darted into the dark and he could see them no more. His hands stretched out to the walls to try and find direction. He let go to try and wipe what he thought was still blood from his cheeks, when he realized they were tears. The man slumped down onto the ground, his chest aching as he cried. His head lay on the hard floor, just as it had when he woke up, when he saw a glint of golden light erupt around him. The room that he had thought was empty suddenly churned its way to life, people danced about, tumbling about in the yellow glow of the chandelier. Waiters drifted through the ocean of the crowd, handing out delicacies to the wealthy as they clattered their glasses together. The man dived out of the flow of the crowd and escaped the party by stumbling into a room.

"Ronald!" A woman shrieked, her eyes were raw and wide as she stared.

"What are you doing here? You can't be here, you know you can't - you're meant to be at the party!" Her blonde hair was pinned in curls, her neck and wrists swathed in shimmering pearls that looked comparable of stars, her eyes bright blue as if their iris had been stained in the depths of the Caribbean sea deemed her beauty worthy of the riches that adorned her in the golden light.

"Your father will be down any minute - you'll have to be quick, he can't see me here!"

It was then that the man realized that the woman was not looking at him, but instead at a handsome young man across the room. She ran to him and he grasped her shoulders.

"Ronald, he knows, he knows already." Her voice was stern and her brow furrowed as she stared into his eyes.

"What? You told him about us? What did he say he will surely-"

"Ronald, he's fine with it! He gave us his blessing would you believe!"

Ronald grinned.

"I can't believe it! We can leave! I no longer have to work here as a bloody waiter and you don't have to look after the show when your father dies! This is it Cynthia, it's our chance to leave before he changes his mind! Let's go, let's leave this place right now."

The girl kissed the boy and then darted to her closet to pack.

"I'll see you out the front in 10 minutes!"

How cliché could these two get? Forbidden love? Eloping? Oh please, the man thought. The man followed Ronald out to his small caravan. He tossed his few belongings into a bag and sprinted in glee to the front of the amusement park, all whilst ignoring the man's pleas for help. Leaving the glow of the building left the man practically blinded in the darkness after being in such a brightly lit room. The man followed the crunch of Ronald's footsteps to find his way. As his eyes adjusted to the blackness, he made out a large figure waddling its way towards them. Ronald was sitting on his suitcase, waiting for the girl, completely unaware. The figure became clear as his outline was shadowed by the bright twinkling fairground lights in the distance. He was holding an axe.

"Ronald!" The man nudged the waiter but he didn't seem to notice.

"The person over there - look!"

The man scrambled back from Ronald as the large figure plunged the axe into Ronald's forehead, tearing the flesh to shreds.

Ronald is tossed to the ground as he screams unintelligible words. The figure's hands grasp Ronald's shoulders and dig his shoulder blades into the ground. Ronald squirms underneath the weight but he uses his knees to prod into his joints.

"But Sir Baxter, sir, Cynthia said-"

"But sir, but sir Baxter - Cynthia Cynthia said!" Baxter mocked Ronald. "That I was okay with it? With you stealing my daughter away from me? This is my amusement park, son. My business. You're my servant. You're nobody. Cynthia is my one and only heir. Did you really think I'd let her throw all of this away to skip off into the sunset with a boy like you? This place is mine. My empire. The rides, the grand hall, the land, the people, hell I even own the bloody animal shit from the show ponies. But most of all, I own you. I'd never let Cynthia run away with someone so meaningless. I can't believe you really fell for that. Your stupidity just proves that I made the right choice." Baxter sneered as he raised the axe once again. Ronald made eye contact with the man for the first time.

"How can I be ther-"

The man stood silently and stared in terror. Ronald. Oh my God, Ronald, the man thought. It's me. He's me, he was me all along.

As the axe pummeled into Ronald's eye, the man reached up to his face and felt a gaping hole where his eye should be. Baxter wedged the blade into the socket and slowly twisted the blade around as Ronald screamed in pain. The man felt his fingertips glide along the very same gash that was streaked across Ronald's forehead.

Baxter stood up as Ronald shook on the ground and Ronald stood beside him, holding his hand and cried. Baxter heaved the cold body from the ground and trudged across the empty field, with Ronald clutching his dead body's hand the whole way. Baxter tossed the body into the ditch before spitting on it and turning away.

Ronald could feel himself fading. He clutched onto his tuxedo when his hand started to go straight through his dead body. His tuxedo now matching the once pristine waiter tux on the body as the lights and music swirled around him blurring his vision, the blood staining everything red. He saw the little blonde girl again. Only this time she was crying. She screamed for her mother as she pointed at him and let her red balloon drift away. He remembered everything now, he'd done this a million times before, forced to live out his death over and over again, never realizing until the end. A cacophony of whining childish tunes from the amusement park beat in his ears as the rest of his senses faded from him, ripped from reality and plummeted into nothingness. Then finally, it was silent.

The man's eyes slowly drifted open. The sky was pale and packed with clouds. Where the hell was he?

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