The Ferris Wheel
by Emily Ray
The dare game. That’s where this all started. Some might say it was the worst summer of my life, but I don’t see it that way. It was a summer of possibilities.
But, back to the dare game. As I mentioned earlier the course of events that happened that summer were the results of a seemingly harmless dare.
It was my friend, Amy’s idea. To sneak into the carnival grounds at dark, I mean. I knew it was trespassing, but it seemed like a good idea. Maybe if I hadn’t taken that dare then things would have gone differently, but something inside of me is really glad that I did. Getting onto the grounds of the carnival was really easy.
We were just being a group of goofy girls. Just the four of us, Megan, Amy, Sam, and me, Natalie. It had always been the four of us. A lot alike in interests, but different in looks. Megan was small, meek, and Catholic. Amy was tall, blond, and had a presence that commanded attention. Sam was larger, more rounded than the rest, with a smile that was much wider than her girth. I was . . . just me. Regular, brown eyes and hair. I took piano lessons on the corner of Bell Avenue, but other than that I had nothing interesting about me. I was just regular.
I remember distinctly that Meg was the one that started the dare game. She had dared Amy to steal a cheap toy bear from a crate behind one of the booths. Amy, being the most competitive of us all, took the dare and got the stuffed animal with flying colors. We started getting wilder with our bets, some weren’t taken, but many were. We were wild. It seemed like we were invincible. It was probably the most fun that I’d had in months.
That was how we came to my dare. I had chickened out of the first one- much to the amusement of the others, but I don’t know why this one appealed to me so much. Megan was the one who initiated the dare. She asked me to climb up onto the Ferris wheel. There was a ladder that was connected to the main support beam, and it ran all the way up to where the wheel connected to the big post. From the ground it didn’t look that far up, so, because I was a complete idiot, I accepted. Amy handed me her beat up Polaroid while she instructed me to take a picture of them from the very top of the beam. They ran at least a hundred feet back, near the booth games and watched me as I grabbed hold of the rickety metal rungs of the ladder and started to heave my way up them.
Climbing on the slim white bars was quite harder than it seemed from the ground. Also I noticed that the ladder went on farther and higher than I had thought it had from all the way down there. But I had already started, and if I backed down now I would never hear the end of it. My sweaty hands were proof of my fear- which was hiding just behind my mask of a trained climber. The bars seemed to wobble and my head spun when I accidentally peeked past my shoes. How had I ever thought that this wasn’t high?!
I was about halfway up the ladder when I slipped. One moment I was pretending that I was anywhere but on a ladder, and the next one of my penny loafers (school dress code) had slipped on the bar. Thankfully I had an okay grasp on a rung with my hand, but my scream that shattered the still night air might have said otherwise.
“HEY!!” A voice came from below. Male. I distinctly remembering the notion that I was in big trouble, whether I fell or not, while my feet fought desperately to get a foothold.
“Stay there! I’m coming!!” I could feel the ladder vibrating as he pulled himself up to where I was. My feet found purchase just as I felt him come up beside me.
“Stay calm, it’ll be okay” He said as he grabbed onto one of my arms to help support me. He coached me along “one foot at a time, that’s it” and calmed me all the way to the bottom. When we finally reached the earth, I realized that my heart was pounding, and wondered dizzily if I was dying. He didn’t say anything else just sat with me, panting.
I looked at him, and sweaty as he was, I could see that he was actually rather nice looking. He had curly brown hair and the greenest eyes I’d ever seen.
“My name’s Natalie. Uh- thanks for saving me”.
“No problem” He said standing up and grabbing a broom and rolling trash can.
“Oh- do you work here?” I inquired trying to look cool but probably failing miserably.
“Yes” He started to scoop up some abandoned popcorn on the ground.
“Well, that’s cool” my voice sounded too enthusiastic and I think he noticed.
“Look” He sighed, “You aren’t really supposed to be here in the first place . . .” He started the sentence
“Oh . . . um sorry,” I said glancing back at the park entrance hoping that my friends hadn’t already left. “Well, uh . . . see ya around.”
“No. You shouldn’t come back, and I only work nights” He said coldly.
And that was how I left him on the first night. I thought that he had been a friendly guy, but on that first night I really thought that I wasn’t going back. But, I seemed to be drawn to the empty carnival grounds night after night. He was cold and harsh to me at first, but soon started talking more. I found that his name was Eric. He worked at the carnival as a janitor, because his parents had died a long time ago. He had nowhere else to go. I fell in love with the boy who had saved my life that summer. I loved him. No one was going to come between us, until that night.
I left to go on my usual ‘date’ with Eric one night. It was beautiful outside. The stars and the almost full moon were shining brightly in the crisp new-autumn night. The carnival was staying until the school year started, and even though I knew that Eric would be gone soon I repressed the thought. He wasn’t cleaning (very unusual) when I arrived. He was waiting at the base of the Ferris wheel, the first place I had met him. He smiled when he saw me, but I saw something in his smile that made me worry. Although, his gleaming white teeth were elegant over his upper curving lips- he still looked sad.
“Hey, what’s wrong” I asked as I approached him.
“Do you remember the first night that we met- the night you climbed the Ferris wheel?” He asked, gazing up at the large metal wheel. My simple reply was, “yes.”
“You almost died up there . . .” he said almost a whisper.
“Yes,” I answered, “But I didn’t because you were there . . . Why won’t you look at me?”
He gazed back down and something in his eyes told me that he had come to say goodbye.
“Please, Eric, no” I begged him, feeling the pain of my loss to come well up in my eyes.
“I’ve gotten too attached.” He said. Then he did something that I thought he would never do- he leaned down, like he was going to kiss me! I closed my eyes (because that’s what you’re supposed to do right?). I felt him push something into my hand, a paper, and then he was gone. I had my eyes closed so I didn’t see exactly what happened, but one moment he was there, making me believe he loved me, and the next he had vanished into the night.
I opened my eyes, in complete shock and looked down at the neatly folded newspaper article. It read,
March 17, 1967
Early this morning, a young man was found dead near the bottom of the Jolly’s amusement park Ferris wheel. He, who was later identified as Eric Caswell- a high school senior, has left behind his parents, David and Maria. Caswell fell to his death while playing out a dare to climb the Ferris wheel. Joshua Helenbok, Caswell’s friend and the initiator of the dare, will soon be tried for involuntary manslaughter. Today, the city of Durant, will mourn the loss of this fine young man.
The tears spilled over.
My friend- Eric- had died in the same way that I would have if, by some way, he had not come back to save me.
Eric was an angel, I know it- and I will never forget him.