Excerpt from The Theme Park at the End of the World

 

 

Welcome to The Theme Park at the End of the World.
Magic thrives here. Anything is possible.

Working at the park was something Ellie and her friend Cole had always wanted to do. Living there was something she had never dreamed of. Now, those vibrant streets and towering rides are part of her everyday life, along with food prepared by some of the finest Fae chefs she’s ever met. Her new home has brought her laughter, a measure of unpredictability, and unexpected friendships. One being with a war-weary Fae. Yet Ellie soon discovers all is not what it seems…

Roman has a dark past and a soft heart. Still, he aims to make the park a haven of wonders for Fae and humans alike. Thanks to him, the evenings belong to the Fae. During those treasured hours, the rides become something more, and those from Faerie bring their own sort of joy.

Ellie must bridge the divide between two worlds when a human inspector arrives at the park. Failing now could place her friends and family in peril. Unmasking the Fae who dwell in The Theme Park at the End of the World would be a loss for all.

Uncover the secrets, thrills, and heartwarming moments that await in this slice-of-life cozy fantasy adventure!

***

Ellie smiled and walked through the queue for her favorite ride. It didn’t matter how many times she’d been on it, or the strange looks she got from some of her coworkers for staying after her shift to enjoy the short lines. Without the crowds, she could stop and look at every detail she wanted, from the old tinker’s workshop filled with gadgets and puffs of steam to the crumbling walls of a mountain city that looked real enough to fool any historian.

“Ellie, wait up!”

She turned to find Cole speed walking through the queue behind her, tufts of sandy brown hair sticking out of his hoodie. He was late again, which wasn’t anything unusual, but he was often on time for night rides.

“What happened?” Ellie asked.

“Roman.” Cole rolled his eyes as if that one name answered everything. And in many ways, it did.

“What now?”

“Something about new food to try?” Cole clenched his fists before rubbing the back of his hand. “I don’t know. I tuned it all out once Hans got excited about the idea of serving some weird Nordic cheese on pretzels.”

Ellie led the way into the next room as she pondered what kind of cheese Cole counted as weird. The thought lingered as she studied the décor there, filled with the glint of giant spider eyes in the darkness, which unsettled many of the guests. Her heart leapt when the sound of the launch echoed through the hall, the buzz of wheels on a track rising to a roar. They were close now.

Cole sighed as they stepped into the station of Tinker’s Escape. “None of the other coasters get to me. Why am I still nervous about this thing?”

“Because it’s one of the best roller coasters in the park? Certainly, the best ride in Lost Empire.”

“I mean, the only other rides in the land are the old cars and the stunningly named Airships.”

Ellie laughed. “It’s still one of my favorite sections of the park. But you’re right about Airships. Who thought to give the name Airships to a slow blimp ride? One that just rises into the air for maybe five minutes? At least the theming is good.”

They’d only have to wait for two of the sleek trains—painted in shades of copper and brass with pipes and pistons along the sides—to cycle through before they’d get to ride. Short lines were the best lines. Ellie grinned at the returning trains, cheers and joy and shock plastered across the various faces. Cole fell silent as the next train launched, slipping through the tunnel to the preshow. He took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, likely realizing they’d scored the first row. That was enough to make anyone nervous, or very excited.

Their train rolled into the station, slowing gradually to a stop before the lap bars released with a clunk. The restraints rose over the riders’ heads before they slid out the opposite side. The gates opened, and Ellie hopped up into the seat and pulled the bar down. She much preferred the deep seats and lack of shoulder restraints to the Gowrow’s Cave coaster across the park.

Ride ops started down either side, dressed in leather aprons and decked out with pistons and working gears on their forearms. They checked to make sure each lap bar was properly secured as everyone got settled. With that done and a thumbs up thrown, the train lurched forward to what doubled as an on-ride preshow and safety spiel.

The room looked much like the tinker’s workshop from the queue, but larger, with a sliding door off to the side that shook and appeared ready to splinter as some unseen force pounded on it. The boom alone was intimidating in that space, but the ride ops added so much more.

Kevin ran onto the scene in chunky, ancient-looking boots. Tall and lanky and fully geared up in a leather apron weighed down with tools, he gestured wildly to the guests as the train slowed to a stop. “You all made it this far! Can you hear them? The guards are getting close now. Keep your fingers and anything else you’d like to keep attached inside the vehicle. Hands up. Head back. Bars down. Hold on to your butts.”

Ellie waved at Kevin. “How can we hold on to our butts if we EEEEEeeeeeeeee!”

She caught his smirk as he hit the button for the launch, and Ellie howled with joy as the train shot forward, exchanging the workshop for the absolute darkness of the launch tunnel. The dim flicker of fire to either side gave them the only warning of a turn so sharp it felt like they’d fall out, pinned down only by the lap bars.

Slamming back into their seats, they dove again, only to repeat another intense left turn. The next few elements blurred together, often called a spaghetti bowl, so tangled was the track. Every turn tried to throw them into the air as Ellie reached for the sky, and Cole’s knuckles whitened on the lap bar. They soared into another tunnel, a straightaway with guards standing by, swords and halberds outstretched as if to strike down the escapees.

The second launch hit. An explosion of speed shot them all forward, screaming as it slammed them into the side of a top hat, pointing the nose of the train skyward before cresting above the ride’s façade, showing them the dying light of sunset over the park before plunging down a near-vertical drop on the other side.

A shallow turn followed, but at speed, it crushed her back into the seat, and Ellie squealed as the track inverted, hanging them upside down for an impossible length of time. The coaster righted them as it dove, jerking them to the side as they entered a tight helix with a pop of airtime.

Another tunnel closed around them, opening into a chasm under the mountain filled with giant creatures, chitinous gleaming limbs and bright eyes reaching out to the tracks ahead of them. The lights dimmed as they reached the first giant bug, then everything went black. Light returned a second later, once they’d passed into a tunnel, revealing the heartline roll they now faced.

Cole shrieked. The countless times they’d ridden it and survived didn’t help. The roll always got him.

Ellie laughed and grinned as they rolled. The lap bar caught against their thighs and kept her from a terrible fall before she was upright again, being forced into the bottom of her seat once more.

Two quick turns, and the light of the world vanished into another tunnel, only to open on the brake run as they slid into the finale. A formidable animatronic greeted them: a knight saddled on top of a giant jumping spider. He gestured with his halberd in the mountain cavern.

“You made it, tinkers! Well done. Don’t forget to retrieve your loose articles from the lockers. For the Steamsworn!”

“I’m alive again?” Cole clutched his chest as if he didn’t quite believe it.

Ellie reached out and patted his knee. “Brave as ever. At least it wasn’t the after-hours ride.”

Cole’s crystal blue and gray eyes widened at the mere suggestion.

They slid back into the station. As soon as the restraints popped open, Ellie pushed up, lifting it back over her head before stepping out. Cole followed, and they headed for the exit.

“Let’s go see if Hans has any of that new cheese.”

Cole didn’t argue.

Ellie stepped onto a winding path, leading them past the boundaries of Lost Empire, where the landscape shifted from dry desert hills into the snowy peaks of Howling Mountain. The soundscaping switched from the rhythmic bursts of steam and gears to the low roar of a mountain wind.

It would have felt ominous if not for the lovely, plucked notes of a lullaby rising and falling like the mountains themselves. They weren’t far from Hans there, and unraveling the mystery of his new cheese. Something in the moment filled Ellie with peace. A sweet realization of how lucky she was to work in such a magical place, and how, perhaps more than anything else, she’d never expected to live there.

***

One of Ellie’s favorite things at the park, much to the bafflement of her friends, was the food. Not just any food, but the strange pretzels with a slice of pizza rolled up inside them, and the Tater Tots that never got soggy, no matter how much cheese or pork belly was left to soak into them.

There was the seasonal fare too, which often aligned with some human holiday. It was important to designate them as human, because the man who owned the Theme Park at the End of the World was no man at all. And Ellie was one of the only mortals who knew.

Launching June 8th, 2024 on Kickstarter. Follow today!