The Fantabulous Funnybone Floatiboats
by Eric J. Krause
Heidi waited for the last boat to cycle through, and then grabbed her waders, flashlight, and walkie-talkie. She couldn't put into words how much she dreaded Tuesday nights, her turn to walk the flume. As light and airy as it was during the day, the building was that much darker and heavier once the last guest left.
She took a deep breath and stepped down into the water. Though it was only 18 inches deep and the waders were insulated, she felt chills flash all over her body. That wasn't from anything other than her dread and anticipation. So far.
During the day, the Fantabulous Funnybones sang and danced to the delight of the children, and to a lesser extent, their parents. Now, though, in the dark of night, the various dogs, cats, and mice stared down with menace in their dead, mechanical eyes. But as creepy as the robots were, they weren't the problem. No, the real problems drifted unseen around the lifeless automatons.
Or at least that's what the stories said. And as much as she laughed about it with her coworkers in the well-lit break room, she didn't when she was down here alone.
She sloshed through the first room without incident. The flume and propulsion devices worked fine, and she didn't hear any cringe-worthy sounds. Just as she did every Tuesday night, she said, "One down, four to go," referring to the various rooms of the ride.
It started in the second room. Just tappings and footsteps up among the characters. Heidi ignored it, instead focusing on the flume. She'd heard it all before. But then came a whisper that caused her blood to run cold.
"Heidi, Heidi." She couldn't tell where it originated from, but she knew right away it wasn't human. The malice in the voice caused her to pick up her pace. Her flashlight stayed trained on the flume and propulsion system, but her attention remained up amongst the cartoon characters. She saw nothing.
As she passed from the second room to the third, she walked through the coldest spot she'd ever felt. If every air conditioning vent in the building was pointed to that one area, it wouldn't have been as cold. She sloshed a few steps forward, and the air remained frozen. A voice, different from the one before, said something, but it was so garbled that she couldn't understand. This time she lifted her flashlight, but other than the various Funnybone characters, she saw nothing.
After a few more feet, the voice returned, and this time she had no problem understanding it. "Die, die, die." As it spoke, something splashed into the water in front of her. A scream escaped her lips, and she positioned her flashlight so she could see. It was an animatronics eye. She pulled out her walkie-talkie, intent on calling for help. She'd feel stupid relaying the story, but at this point, she didn't care.
Before she could press the talk button, the ride turned on. But that was impossible. A padlock lay attached to the start mechanism, and the only key was in her pocket. Either someone had cut the lock, which they wouldn't do--they knew she was in here--or even more improbable, something in here caused an override.
As the Fantabulous Funnybones sang their signature song of tolerance and peace, the water propulsion jets spit out more air than necessary to move the boats at a steady pace. It knocked Heidi off-balance, and the walkie-talkie flew from her hand. It splashed into the water at the same time she did, but it was far out of her reach and already rushing away in the current.
She tried to prop herself up, but her hand slipped on the bottom. Her head went under, and before she could pull it out, hands pushed her down. She struggled and tried to scream, but water rushed into her lungs. She'd only been under a second, and she already felt the first signs of drowning. She knew she shouldn't panic, but with phantom hands still pushing down, that was impossible. Thrashing about did no good.
Her head hit the bottom, and the hands disappeared. She pushed up, but pain assaulted her scalp. Through the chlorinated water, she saw her hair stuck in one of the propulsion mechanisms. A quick yank broke a good chunk of hair loose (with a fair amount of scalp). It wasn't enough. She still couldn't rise. And she'd already taken in too much water. Unless she acted fast, she was going to drown in a foot and a half of water.
Heidi grasped her hair and planted her feet on the bottom of the flume. It would hurt like a bitch, but her legs were strong enough to pull her free. And she had to hurry. Not only was she about to pass out, but the boats had no doubt been launched. With the speed of the propulsion jets, they'd not only get to her in a hurry, but would hit too hard to survive.
With the speed of the water, she couldn't get traction on the bottom of the flume. She tried a new angle and moved her feet to the side of the flume. She pushed hard, screamed out the last of the air in her lungs as her scalp ripped, and freed herself. She pushed up, but before she broke the surface, the first boat slammed into her. She didn't die right away, but it pinned her down, trapping her at the bottom.
As the happy music of the Fantabulous Funnybone Floatiboat attraction played above her, the last thing she heard was a raspy voice.