I shut my eyes as a shrill scream escaped my throat.
Bouncing hard, I opened them in time to see the trees fly by in a jarring blur. "Whoa!" I was tossed forward as I roared straight down into darkness.
A sudden spin made me cry out again. The car tilted hard to the left and I slammed into my cousin, Ashley Franks. She was screaming, too. Her blond hair flew out wildly behind her head.
We swooped down once more, a sharp dip. I yelped in surprise as I felt myself fly up from the seat. The trees whirred by, shadowy in the dark night light. The car clattered noisily as it began to climb again.
"This is great!" I screamed to Ashley.
Her face was bright red. Her blue eyes were wide, staring up to the top of the track. She grinned at me and started to reply. But instead, she let out a startled whoop as our car plunged down.
Down, down with a deafening roar.
The wind battered my face. I gripped the bar tightly with both hands. Down, down -- and into total darkness.
A tunnel. We whirred through the tunnel, then back out into the dim light filtering through the dark, leafy trees. Then a jolting turn pushed me into Ashley again. My cousin was screaming too hard to notice.
Another tunnel. Another climb. Another swooping, roaring spin that made the car squeal.
And then we slowed to a stop.
Over my thudding heartbeat I could hear screams and laughter behind us. Ashley and I had been riding in the front car.
I turned to her. She was still breathing hard. Her hair was wild, standing almost straight up. She was trying to brush it down with both hands.
"You were right, James!" she exclaimed. "The Beast® is awesome!"
"It's the best! I told you!" I cried breathlessly. I climbed out of the roller coaster car onto the platform. "Hey -- I'm dizzy!"
"You're always dizzy," Ashley teased, following me out. She staggered for a few steps, then grabbed my shoulder. She laughed. "Whoa! I'm a little dizzy, too, I guess."
We staggered off the platform and followed the exit path. I turned back to stare at the enormous roller coaster, the wooden tracks rising up darker even than the night sky.
My heart was still racing. As Ashley and I walked, we were surrounded by laughing, shouting voices. "I -- I thought the ride was over," Ashley said, still trying to untangle her hair. "But then we started to climb again."
"That has to be the longest roller coaster ride anywhere!" I exclaimed. "Other roller coasters last only a minute or two. But this one takes over four minutes!"
I'm an expert on roller coasters. I ride them whenever I can. And I never ride just once. I always go back and ride again and again.
The third time is usually the best. By that time, your screaming muscles are limbered up and you can howl like a pro all the way.
I'd been to Paramount's Kings Island twice before. And I had ridden The Beast at least half a dozen times. But this was Ashley's first time.
She's twelve and I'm twelve, but I think I look older. She's about four inches shorter than me, even with all that wild blond hair. She's skinny, too. I guess she's kind of pretty. She has great blue eyes and a nice smile.
People always tease me because I don't smile much. I've got dark brown hair and dark eyes, and I just look serious, that's all.
Ashley and I don't get to see each other very often. Our families live about three hundred miles apart. But when we do, we get along pretty well.
We like to tease each other and get on each other's case. Sometimes we play pretty mean tricks on each other. But I guess that's normal.
We stopped at a food stand and bought sodas. All that screaming can make you thirsty.
After gulping down half her cup of soda, Ashley glanced up at the dark sky. A pale halfmoon had risen above the trees. "It's getting pretty late," she said. "Past your bedtime, James."
"Ha-ha," I replied, rolling my eyes.
She took another long gulp from her cup. Some of it trickled onto the front of her sleeveless blue T-shirt, but she didn't notice. She pushed her hair off her forehead with her free hand.
"What do you want to do now?" I asked. We had been at the park since early afternoon. We had already been on most of the other roller coasters.
"Let's ride The Beast again!" Ashley cried. Her eyes lit up as an excited grin crossed her face. "Come on!"
"The line is pretty long," I told her, motioning to it. I glanced at my watch. "And the park is going to close soon."
"Come on!" she cried, not listening to me. She tugged at the sleeve of my T-shirt. "Hurry!"
I pulled back. "No. Really. There isn't time, Ashley," I insisted.
"Please! Let's just try -- okay?" she begged, tugging at me again. "Let's get in line again. Please?"
"Well...okay," I agreed.
And that was when all the trouble began.
Copyright © 1994 Parachute Press, Inc.