The gang planned to meet at the front gates of River Canyon at nine. After the midnight fireworks, they would catch a ride from Jumper’s dad back to his house, where they would spend the night. None of the parents had a problem with the co-ed sleepover. Jumper’s dad was a respected and trusted church pastor in the community, so their parents knew that this small gathering would be well supervised.
Everyone arrived at the park well before nine. Colby was relieved to see that Keira did not back out. The group made their way quickly to the Screamin’ Demon roller coaster and got in line. The cold winter night did not discourage the crowd of teens and college students in the park that evening. It was as busy as it would have been in the middle of July. Jumper and Ann stayed in the regular line, while Brooke and Colby moved into the front seat queue. Keira hung back until Jumper yelled “All fifth wheels
in the back!”
Ann smacked Jump’s arm and looked at Keira remorsefully. Keira really didn’t care what Jumper said, but needed a break from him so she ducked between the bars and into the front line queue behind Colby and Brooke. She mostly stared at her boots in silence as the couple flirtatiously giggled and touched, completely ignoring her. As they moved forward in the line, the public displays of affection began to wane and Brooke’s face grew whiter and whiter. Finally, she excused herself, grumbling something about the wind messing up her hair. However, it was evident that Brooke was too scared to ride. Keira didn’t mind, this meant that she didn’t have to ride alone.
Jumper and Ann boarded the train first. Ann waved goodbye to Colby and Keira who were still on the loading platform. Jumper made a sort of Dracula-esque maniacal laugh as the train clinked up the incline. “What a goof,” thought Keira aloud.
Next it was their turn. Colby hopped in first, with Keira beside. He was a bit nervous, but he certainly was not going to let Keira see it. She sat as casually as if she were sitting on the sofa in her living room. “Okay, how do you want to pose for the camera on the last hill?” she asked.
“You’re such a kid,” Colby laughed nervously. He then blew the air out of his lungs and grasped the handles on his seat’s vest, pulling it down over his head to fit securely across his chest. He clicked in the belt that linked the vest to the seat. The attendant walked by and gave each vest a quick tug.
This particular coaster had the traditional steep hill and valley leading into an impressive pitch-black tunnel which actually traveled underground, then up again, and into a series of cobra rolls before slowing into the station. It was a short ride, but definitely an exciting one.
The attendant pulled on the last vest and gave a thumbs-up signal to his co-worker in the control booth. The train gave a jerk then began to clink up the first steep incline. Colby closed his eyes, grasped his security vest tighter, and felt it pull up. They tipped over the top and Keira began to scream with delight. Her scream turned real as the safety belt that had been holding Colby’s vest broke loose and flew past her. He leaned forward to grab the broken belt when his vest slammed up and struck his forehead. He sank motionless in the seat. Keira’s vest then began to rise. She desperately held it down. For now, gravity was helping. Keira knew that soon they would be in the tunnel. Once they reached the dark tunnel, her chances of helping Colby before they hit the upside-down rolls would be slim.
Keira tried to keep her focus as the passengers in the seat directly behind them started screaming wildly. They had seen the faulty guards in the front seat and were frightened for their own safety.
Keeping one hand on the seat’s safety vest, she moved the other hand to the inside of her jacket collar and pulled out her scarf. She took a deep breath before letting go. As she did the belt holding it down snapped and the vest flipped up into the air.
She worked quickly. She slid one end of the scarf around Colby’s waist. She moved to his lap, pulling both ends of the scarf around them. She then drew his safety vest back down as closely as she could and laced the scarf through it. She made the final securing knot just as they entered the tunnel.
“Get off me! Where am I?” a groggy Colby asked.
“Hold on, Colby. We’re still on the coaster. I’ve got us tied in.”
Colby was shocked into full awareness. He wrapped an arm around Keira and grasped a side handrail with the other. She took comfort in this and closed her eyes momentarily. They would get through this, just one more minute and the ride would be over.
Then she opened her eyes to a flash of green piercing the darkness. “Mogdoc,” she uttered breathlessly.
The green-eyed creature leapt from the wooden beams of the tunnel onto their coaster car. Keira could barely see the outline of its leathery skin, stretched taunt across its protruding bones like a bat’s wings. It was small, but wickedly fast and vicious. It slashed the knotted scarf apart with its long, sharp claws. Then raised its arms and sucked in a deep breath allowing gills at the sides of its chest to flare. “For the glory of Bov, Edgund the Destroyer is victorious,” the thing shrieked with a flick of its skinny, forked tongue.
“What’s happening?” asked Colby from under Keira.
“Got it,” Keira yelled back. She pulled her dagger from her right boot and thrust it into the creature’s blue-gray skin. It screeched and swiped at Keira’s head. She pulled her head to one side to avoid the strike. This permitted Colby to see what was going on right in front of him. While Keira had it distracted, he grabbed the creature’s skinny arm. It clamped its fangs on his wrist. Crying out in pain, he flung it onto the track ahead of them. They could hear its bones crunch as the coaster sped over it.
“We’re loose,” Keira shouted.
They burst out of the tunnel and were rising up the final hill before the cobra rolls that would take the coaster upside down. Keira was still in Colby’s lap. She grabbed one end and Colby the other. They pulled the scarf back up around them, but it was now too short to tie off. She pulled at the vest, pleading for just a few inches more.
“I know,” Colby said calmly. “Get back to your seat.”
Keira slid over. Colby pulled her vest tight to her chest and secured it with the remaining bit of scarf.
“That’s good. Now, how are we going to do this?” Keira asked.
The car had reached the top of the hill. Clink…clink…….clink………It teetered at the top, ready to drop at any moment.
“You have to be here to protect him,” Colby said.
“No!” Keira screamed, pulling against her restraint.