School: Fargo North High School, Fargo ND
Educator: Lori Koenig
AWARD: Gold Key, Portfolio
by Colton Roquet
Jason slowly weaved his way through the crowd of the fair, doing his best to not bump anyone. He just wanted to get some ice cream before he went home. He had been meant to meet some friends here, but they had never shown, so he had been going on rides alone. It had been pleasant for a while, but gotten old really quick.
As he waited in line, he idly checked his phone, hoping for any text from his friends saying where they had been. Nothing. And it was getting late, nearly midnight. He needed to hurry home and get to bed. He had an early morning tomorrow.
“What can I get you?” the ice cream vendor asked, tearing Jason away from his phone. The truckthat the vendor was in was festive, and the demeanor of the man was cheerful. Evidently, someone liked their job.
“I’ll get a chocolate strawberry twist,” Jason responded, returning the bubbly smile as he took out the envelope he kept his cash in, pulling out a few bucks to pay for the ice cream. He looked back at the Ferris Wheel as he waited for the ice cream he had ordered. The only ride he refused to get on. He hated Ferris Wheels. Not sure why, in full honesty. After all, the Ferris Wheel looked...peppy. It illuminated the night with popping neon colors, and the laughter of children coming from the ride itself was tempting him, almost whispering for him to come on.
“Here you go, one strawberry chocolate twist,” the ice cream vendor said, handing Jason his treat while simultaneously pulling him from his thoughts. With a brief ‘thank you,’ Jason took the cone and handed him the money, before turning to leave, once again returning to weaving through the crowd towards the exit. Once again, his gaze kept getting caught by the Ferris Wheel. It looked so...festive. It brought a happy feeling to his chest, an optimistic mood that he hadn’t felt in a while. But it was accompanied by something...something he couldn’t place...maybe...maybe if he rode the Ferris Wheel, he would know?
Once again, he was torn from these thoughts. This time, it was by a hand placed on his shoulder.
“Are you okay?” a gruff voice asked. “Do you need a ride home?”
“I-N-No? Who are you?” Jason asked, turning to look at the man in confusion.
“I’m sorry, I just...I was driving down the street just outside the fair, and saw you in here. You looked like you were trying to avoid running into people in here, I was worried,” the man told him.
What was this man talking about? Of course, he was trying to not run into anyone! This place was packed! It was opening night of the fair, the best part of the year!
With another glance around, however, Jason’s heart dropped. The neon colors were gone. The streets were empty. Silence filled the haunted air, and a light breeze made the loose dirt blow across his feet. Jason swallowed anxiously, before turning around, looking at the Ferris Wheel.
No colors. No lights. No laughter. Just a dark Ferris Wheel, covered in rust and age. It was decrepit and looked as if it hadn’t been used in decades. It gave Jason a heavy feeling of anxiety and fear, bringing a cold sweat to his palms, his breath coming in quicker.
“O-On second thought, yeah, I’d like a ride, i-if you didn’t mind,” Jason mumbled, turning to look at the man.
“I figured as much. Come on, let’s get you home,” the man said, gently grabbing Jason’s arm and leading him out of the fairgrounds.
The last emotion Jason remembered feeling was the same one he had felt when the Ferris Wheel was still lit up, still bubbling with children’s laughter. He finally had a word for that same feeling that had accompanied the joy.