Prompt Day #31: Your character is trapped in an amusement park ride that won’t stop. In fact, the mechanics seem to be speeding up! Describe the escape attempt. (Alternatively, write this from the viewpoint of a parent who helplessly watches as their child is trapped in such a situation).
I have to give some credit to my son who wanted me to do the Small World ride so bad. He turns 11 on Sunday and he’s been my prompt buddy, asking what I am writing about everyday, giving me ideas (some good, some a little stranger than I can properly do justice to). I had a carnival ride in mind, but he hates the small world ride more than words can say while my daughter would indeed ride it for the sake of antiquity. Anyways, celebrating both the birthday of my amazing, creative and hilarious son as well as my accomplishing one month’s worth of prompts (even if the time zones changed several times the last couple weeks): I give you It’s a Hell of a Small World.
It’s a Hell of a Small World
“Come on, Mom, Please can we ride the Small World ride? It’s not right to go to Disney and not ride it.” This came from my nineteen year old daughter. One would think she would be old enough to understand the torture that is the Small World ride but somehow, she thinks it’s quaint.
“Oh my God! Fine. Get in line.” I said, too hot and too tired of walking to argue. Luckily the line moved fast and before I could reconsider, we were sitting on a bench in a long uncomfortable boat, staring at strange little mechanical children from all over the world dancing among what can only be described as 1970’s game show décor.
I have always had a recurring fear that the ride will breakdown somewhere in the middle of it and I would be trapped listening to the song that invades your brain like a parasitic worm. I also forget– much like the pain of childbirth–just how never ending the ride itself is. So, there we were somewhere in Small Holland, watching little blond-headed dolls spin about in their wooden clogs when the ride began to speed up. At first, I said a silent prayer of thanks to the mechanized gods of Disney and laughed along with my daughter as the poor little munchkins spun wildly about. I remember thinking It’s a Small World Ride is so much better this way. We’ll be at the end soon! How very foolish I was.
I was foolish because somehow, the end didn’t come and the ride continued to pick up speed. The song, which very nearly sounds like The Chipmunks anyways, now sounded like The Chipmunks on meth. We sped through Russia and China and Japan, America, Canada, and Mexico. On and on we sailed. Faster and faster the little robots sang and danced. It was getting hard to hear the amphetamine-fueled happiness of the mannequin children over the screams of the fellow trapped riders. Admittedly, we were laughing at first. We stopped laughing, though, when the little dancing dolls began to catch fire. The singing and dancing slowed as their faces began melting off.
The smell of burnt plastic began to permeate the place as we sped through the countries. At this point, I began to worry. We should have reached the end of the ride. Even if they couldn’t stop it, we should have seen the multilingual goodbye signs followed by the disembarking/embarking area of the ride. We didn’t. What we saw, as we passed by Africa, Australia, and South America was an inferno. Flames up the walls, smiling sparkly suns bursting into more realistic suns, and hula dancers gyrating about in skirts of fire. There were only seconds to take in the scene before we passed into the next room. Just as we did, though, a hot air balloon filled with children from God knows what country exploded and the basket of melted puppets fell into our boat. My daughter screamed as I frantically brushed the napalm face of what was once a little toe-headed tyke off my arm.
“We gotta get off this ride.” I said to her, rinsing my hands off in the nasty water under our boat and about lost a finger as out vessel rammed into the edge. She nodded, still shaken by the Hindenburg disaster now smoldering in our gondola. “I say we jump out when we get into the next room and make our way out of here.” I said. The voices of the drug-addled chipmunks had slowed to a gravely, demonic chanting. We were going to have to time the jump carefully.
The next room we entered certainly wasn’t one I remembered from every other time I’d been on this ride. It appeared to be a scene from Alice in Wonderland but not the Disney version. There was the Jabberwocky actually munching on a screaming animatronic toddler and the Jubjub Bird was diving out of the flames to devour another little imp who was far too busy running for his life to be bothered with dancing or singing about the small world he was trapped in. I was mesmerized as was my daughter. Neither one of us moved. Instead we watched the Alice doll singing along with a now skeletal Cheshire cat in slow motion; the lyrics barely decipherable. We continued on and faster still.
Before we could discuss another plan we were into the next chamber. This one, I quickly realized was a depiction of Dante’s Inferno. All seven levels of hell were represented here. I tore my eyes away from the poor little Disney darlings suffering their eternal fates to grab my daughter’s arm.
“Jump, NOW!” I yelled over the now clearer but also more maniacal chanting of “It’s a Small World”. The children’s voices sounded like they were sobbing; being forced by three headed dogs and the like to sing about a world full of laughter and fun. We leaped and fell into a little tot version of Charon who seemed to be inviting us in. We turned to see the boat speed away with screaming passengers still inside. Once we’d regained our equilibrium, we looked around at a scene that no Imagineer had ever imagined. There were flames everywhere. Some were the red and gold lame version and some actual hell-fire.
Both my daughter and I have read Inferno, so when we saw the mountain along the back wall; we knew we needed to make our way there in order to escape the ride. Here there were no more cute little puppies or donkeys from Spain. Here, there were monsters, here, the tiny singers were no longer dancing or smiling. Those, whose features hadn’t charred, looked pained and frightened. There were small marionettes battling each other with boulders, some wallowing in a filthy mud, still others had their heads on backwards yet all the while they danced among the blaze, and sang of a world the likes of which did not exist here in this desolate land. My daughter and I dodged pint-sized centaurs and leaped over burning sands made of brownish AstroTurf. Miniature Disneyesque vipers leapt out of blood red pits at us. We continued on trying not to think about what we were seeing. There was a frozen lake at the base of the mountain and stuck within the acrylic waters were more poor elfin souls crying out to be rescued from a fate worse than death—the eternal damnation of the Small World ride.
We nimbly stepped over them, even though we knew they were animated wee ones, it still somehow seemed so wrong should we step on their heads. The mountain, like most backgrounds in Disney, was just a façade. I peeked around it and there, on the other side came a choir of angelic young voices singing happily. The opposite side was not a mountain at all, but a forest of glittering trees on a hill side representing the good old US of A. The sweet automated babes danced in their little jeans and tee shirts and belted out their song of peace and coexistence. Boats filled with enthralled and undisturbed tourists floated by smiling and pointing. And there was our boat, the back bench empty as it slowly drifted by. We snuck behind a dancing golden retriever and stepped back into our boat. The riders in the group behind us gave us dirty looks but we didn’t care, nothing could be worse than where we’d just been. The next chamber was the goodbye room filled with signs in many different languages and I found myself sighing with relief. When it was our turn to disembark I stood to step out but a tiny hand shot up out of the water and grabbed me by the ankle. A melted face resembling Munch’s Scream bobbed up to the surface. I screamed myself and kicked at it. The thing let go and its horrified visage sunk back into the abyss.
My daughter doesn’t ask to ride It’s a Small World anymore, in fact, we stay out of Fantasyland all together if we can help it. Fantasy is all well and good so long as it knows its place. The problem is: crazy things happen all the time; it’s a Hell of a Small World, after all.