All three of us are sixteen. Two girls, one boy: all in flannel shirts, with wet-look hair that smells like grapes. We get ready at your house—jostle for a spot in front of the tiny mirror in your room—while Rusty plays Nintendo on the bed. We have done this every weekend for years, but before it was just us two. I find an eyelash on your cheek, wipe it off with my fingertip and tell you to make a wish. You blow on my finger. “What did you wish for?” I say, but you shake your head and laugh.
We storm the Mansion of Terror like Vikings, made brave by the six-pack of cheap beer we downed in the back seat of Rusty’s Ford. The guy in devil makeup takes our tickets and leers at us, his red face and horns an invitation. Rusty pushes to the front, puffs himself up. The devil looks at his feet while Rusty ushers us past.
Rusty walks in front, you in the middle, me in back. We enter a butcher shop, the table filled with human feet and hands. Clowns, an electric chair, an asylum. We grip and giggle, try to scare each other even more.
The fifth room is full of light. A fluorescent hum. I don’t understand what’s scary here, but then I spot her in the corner, a woman crawling toward me on hands and knees. Black hair masks her face. She grabs my ankle, and I scream. I run to the door, it jams, too heavy in my shaking hands. Rusty opens it, hugs me, and laughs.
Next we confront the maze, so dark my eyes hurt. The walls are covered in rough fabric, and are so tight I have to squeeze my shoulders toward each other. I am teenager thin and don’t know how grownups make it through here, or fat people. I grope along, duck down when the ceiling drops. I stub my toe when the floor suddenly rises and I reach out for you, for Rusty, but my fingers wave empty against the cold, damp air. I listen for your breath, and wonder where you are. I wonder when I will ever get out of this darkness.
When I finally escape the maze, you and Rusty are kissing in the red light of the hallway before the last room. He sees me and nudges you to stop. My stomach is like that butcher’s meat, and when you turn you avoid my eyes. I try to smile. A chainsaw screams ahead of us and the gas fumes burn my nose. We charge into the room, you two in front, and try to run past the man in the mask who blocks our way. When I fall behind, the chainsaw blocks me. A toll booth. A gate. Your black hoodie fades through the exit door, and I can see only the flood-lights in the parking lot outside.
Chelsea Voulgares grew up in Ohio catching lightning bugs and watching bad horror movies. She now lives in Chicago, where she’s working on a novel and a collection of short stories. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Literary Orphans, The Millions, and Bust, and has been recognized with grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. You can find her online at chelseavoulgares.com.