The Happiest Place on Earth
by Sandra Stephens
Everyone keeps asking me when I first knew something was wrong, but I never did. I was like everyone else, thinking it was just the happiest place on earth, right? No trash on the sidewalks, no muggers, no drunk daddy calling you a no-good good-for- nothing, no sister pregnant in the ninth grade, no cousin busted for digging a basement under his double wide and making meth. There, it’s all sunshine and mouse-eared ice cream and bathrooms that have sensors so you don’t have to touch anything.
I never had even a whiff that things weren’t what they seemed, not until that day I got stung by the bee. I’m allergic, you see. I have to carry around this epinephrine injector like they had in that movie where they stabbed that famous model. Remember that? That’s the same stuff I have to stick in me if I ever get stung again, or else my heart could stop.
So a bee crawled up my overall pant leg while I was having lunch in the shade under the bleachers and stung me. I killed it by going bam, just like that with my hand on my thigh and that’s the last thing I remember until I woke up. It was late in the day and real shadowy. They were about fifty yards away, having a meeting. Christ I hate to think what would have happened if they sensed me.
There was enough light coming through the bleachers I could identify them were pretty clear – plus it’s not hard given the size of their heads. It was Sleepy and Grumpy – or maybe Doc, I always get those two mixed up – and that French candlestick from Beauty and the Beast. Also Donkey – you know, from Shrek – and Pebbles Flintstone. I looked for Fred but didn’t see him. There was Lisa Simpson, and Woody from Toy Story, and Shamu – he must’ve come over from Sea World, a good four miles away.
It takes me a moment to realize they aren’t talking English but real high pitched noises that sounded like every vowel you never heard of, and no consonants at all. And they’re acting funny – not happy (even though they have those permanent smiles, I wasn’t fooled). There was a lot of tension in the air, you could really feel it. They were whipping their big heads all around in a frenzy. Like they knew someone was coming – maybe they did. Maybe they have a super sensitive sense of smell, or hearing, though I don’t know how since their heads are made of velour.
And then it happened. Donald Duck and Goofy come walking up and they’re each holding the hand of this cute little guy, Christ, he couldn’t have been more than six. Little blonde tyke with a red baseball hat and a striped shirt that has Sponge Bob on it. Thank God Sponge Bob wasn’t in on it. You’re that age, the betrayal of trust, the destruction of innocence – that hurts as much as your guts being ripped out, I think. Worse, even.
Sorry for being graphic there, I’m trying to just get this out. So the little boy just walks right into the middle of them, happy and excited, and they fell on him. The sounds they made – I can’t describe them. It was incredibly savage. Inhuman. Which of course they were. They ate him up – everything. Even the spinal cord – Christ, the crunching sound of that. Even his Sponge Bob shirt and shoes.
Illustration by Conrico Steez
When they were done, they all high fived only most of them only have three of four fingers on those big cartoon glove hands they all have. They seemed a lot less stressed. Then they all went off giving each other the thumbs up and okey dokey signs, and waving at little kids.
I was so scared I laid there for maybe four hours before I could bring myself to get up. I was so scared they’d come back. But finally my legs stopped shaking enough I could get up. I went over to where it happened – there was a slick dark spot in the grass, and the red baseball hat. I picked the hat up and put it in my pocket. I could have cried at how little it was.
It was dark and the park was closed. I didn’t dare walk out in the open – I ran from bush to bush, from concession to concession. I had to climb a wooden fence out back behind the castle. Stood on a bunch of crate s filled with faulty Tinkerbells – at first I thought those boxes were filled with dead little girls, and I nearly had a heart attack. Then it started to rain. I took cover in a bus shelter but it was too well lit. I felt uneasy waiting there for a bus like I was in a spotlight, where those things might see me. In the dark was better. Safer.
So I walked. It was a long walk – more than fifteen miles all told, but I went straight home because my dad’s a cop. Actually chief detective. You gotta be the best to make chief detective, the type of person who makes a lot of sacrifices, never seeing his family and stuff so that he can protect innocent people like that little tyke at the park.
He drove me to the station hisself, and gave me this pad to write out the story on. My hands are still shaking so bad, my handwriting isn’t for shit, but now that I’ve got it all down, I feel a little better. I wonder if those things are like zombies, where you have to shoot them in the head to kill them. I wonder if they’ve digested that little tyke already. I wonder where they came from, and what they want, other than to feed on our happiness. I can still hardly believe it, even though I saw it with my own eyes. If I didn’t have the bloody little hat as proof,
I wouldn’t believe it. I mean, would you?