As a special fifth week blog, I offer the original story to The Stories We Tell Podcast’s Ding, Dong, Ditch. Graciously, Rob Harrison narrated this story. You can listen to this story on Episode 8 of the podcast.
“Monica looked down at her 1930s flight suit. She had missed the memo about dressing in alluring costumes. It didn’t surprise her that her friends had ‘accidently’ lost her in the New Orleans section of the theme park.
She stepped on the river’s wrought iron safety railing, hoping its height would give her an advantage to finding her friends. An employee grizzled and she stepped down, bumping into someone.
“Excuse me.” She turned to see bright eyes.
“Hey, Monica. You alone?” Steve’s brows knitted. “Or did the girls tire of your touring plan?”
She shrugged but kept a smile on her face.
“You’re unlikely to find them in this.” He gestured to the crowd. “Hang with me. Your brother ditched me for his girl.”
Ever the gentleman, Steve offered his arm. His Old West doctor’s costume fit perfectly – tailored, suave, and sophisticated. She ignored the electricity between them as they touched.
“How do you feel about a visit to the Haunted House?” he pointed to the grand Victorian plantation.
“It’s my favorite.”
As they walked through the gaping maw in the fence, Monica pushed her flight hat back. “No one’s here.” She looked back at the crowd behind. “Why?” she giggled.
“All the better. I have always wanted to ride the elevator with no one else. Come on.” And he dragged her up the steps and into the foyer.
The narration started. The gallery conveyed them below and then they walked to the ride vehicle. As they sat, the ghost narrator continued.
“Did you notice the lack of employees?” Steve looked backwards around the side of the seatback.
“I guess they are having a break since no one is on the attraction?”
The ride seemed more consuming. The projections, animatronics, and piper’s ghosts didn’t frighten the teens, but even the jovial and catchy song as they glided through the graveyard didn’t bubble laughter. There was a cold creeping along their bones.
The ride’s host broke back in to warn them that a ghost might follow them home.
The vehicle swiveled as they passed a series of mirrors reflecting their bodies and one of the hitchhikers between them. Monica was the first to see the Other. It was a skeletal hand gripping the canopy of the ride vehicle. Soon joined by another and the gaping smile of a skull.
Steve grabbed Monica’s hand and pulled her from the ride before they ran for the safety of the fresh air and crowd on the other side of the exit door.
But what met them was not what they expected. A desolate, dark land laid before them. They sprinted to Cowboy Land; slowing only when they saw people.
“I’ll always protect you,” Steve pulled Monica to him with a smile. A smile she couldn’t resist. She brushed her lips against his.
Warmth engulfed them. It was short lived.
Both shivered in the chill of the ghostly words, “I’ll never ditch you.”