Winner: Most Disturbing Story
A thin stream lanced out from the plastic gun and into plastic clown’s wide grin. Atop its hat protruded a pink balloon which swelled at rate faster than his rivals. Within seconds, it popped; a bell rang to signify his victory.
“Winner!” shouted the booth operator from around his cigar. The rivals scuffled off to seek their glory elsewhere in Funland while the operator waved the youth over to the side.
“You been out in the heat all day, kid,” he said between puffs of his cigar. “You ain’t fed up yet?”
“I enjoy the challenge,” the young man lied.
“That’s what I thought. I got a real good game for ya, one that I don’t show to just nobody. Follow me into the back.”
The operator threw a latch that dropped shudders with a metal sign reading “Closed” over the open areas of his booth. He then on pulled a metal ring attached to a trap door in the pavement. Cool air rushed up from the hatch, cooling the youth’s skin. He watched the operator descend a ladder into the underground, and followed after a prompting “C’mon!”
Subterranean Funland was a labyrinth, with corridors leading every which way and fluorescent ceiling lamps highlighted every imperfection in the cement walls. Paths diverged to the maintenance hatches of roller coasters, rooms filled with antique equipment, and humongous freezers. Pipes crossing through every path wound their way to every area of the park. The two passed the open chamber under the merry-go-round; from below, the ride was nothing more than a multitude of dancing poles frenetically stabbing through the ceiling.
After a series of turns, the two approached a solid steel door. The operator jangled a ring of keys and withdrew one splattered with red paint. The lock turning echoed into the room beyond.
The operator shut the door behind them and the room became pitch black. The young man’s heartbeat intensified as his imagination rampaged.
The operator clicked the light switch and black light flooded the room. A row of five stools sat before a counter. All but the middle stool had a body was slumping over a large box on the counter. Everything in the room, bodies include, was tattooed with symbols glowing in the black light – red flames, purple skulls, blue waves, green swirls, all vivid in the UV lighting.
The operator pushed at something and the bodies suddenly jerked upright. Like marionettes on tangled wires, they rattled, jerked and twitched. The youth turned to where the operator stood to find nothing; he had been left alone a room full of strangers.
“Entrance of the Gladiators” rasped from unseen speakers. The boxes before the bodies fell apart to unveil a gun while the wall gave way to reveal that the room was raised above another chamber. Through the chain-link fencing that covered the outer room, the youth saw a five enormous clown heads, greased in a sickly rainbow of glowing paint. They had mouths like snakes, with fangs protruding from their unhinged jaws, and strobe lights in their eye sockets.
A body with its arms drawn back stood, ankles shackled, atop their heads, each one glowing with colored symbols. They had a feminine shape, and all but the one in the middle writhed and shook. Each one wore a glowing blindfold, colored pasties over their breasts, with a matching “X” over their mouths.
“Take your positions!” scratched the operator’s voice through an intercom. The young man hesitantly took the empty stool and gripped the gun.
The operator’s voice dropped to a whisper and hissed through the intercom, “This game is for people like you.”
The youth leaned forward and looked around to get a glimpse at the people who were like him. He immediately wished he hadn’t; they each had gaping holes where eyes should have been and mouths forced back into snarls. Their teeth chattered at an inhuman rate.
Fighting the urge to run, the youth kept his face forward and eyes locked on the women writhing on clown heads.
They pulled their triggers. Brackish fluid spurted from their guns and into the clowns’ mouths. The young man’s heart skipped a beat, his face flushed, and his jaw dropped. The slim torsos of the five women were swelling … just like balloons.
The operator was right – the game was most certainly for people like him.
And he wanted to win.
The girls’ writhing intensified as their bellies skyrocketed passed any reasonably realistic proportion, still with the exception of the girl in the middle. Despite her belly bulging out the largest, she remained still.
As their bodies distended further, a loud snap was heard that echoed four more times. The girls’ arms came free to show their right hands holding a sign on a stick. In glowing red letters they read:
“It’s too much”
The young man took no notice as he white-knuckled his trigger until the girl in the middle, his girl, began to flail.
“She’s real?” he muttered under his breath.
“Yes,” hissed the four gunsmen.
“I can’t do this,” he lied.
The bodies of the women had grown so large that they enveloped their arms and legs. The signs held by the anthropomorphic balloons clattered to the floor.
The music stopped, and all the young man could hear was the menacing creak of the bulging, bulbous, bouncy, balloon women as their limits were reached.
The gunmen ceased their fire and slumped back over their gun. All the youth could see was his girl – the biggest balloon of them all, her head touching the ceiling. With a bloodcurdling bang, a flood of warm red, and a shower of chunky confetti, he won the race. A bell rang to signify his victory.
“Sounds like you got your prize, kid,” said the operator to the young man whose laughter echoed throughout the labyrinth beneath Funland.