When The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down

Submitted into Contest #155 in response to: Set your story in a kids’ playground, or at a roundabout.... view prompt

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Fantasy Friendship Fiction

It was about midnight and it had been for several hours.  I came here to walk and reminisce about my rights and wrongs and thoughts from the past both happy and sad.  There is something ghostly about how it looks ya’ know.  A playground devoid of the sounds of excited children, anxious parents and angry teachers.  I brought my ghosts with me. I have no shortage of regrets and many of mine rest here, fester here and should I see the dawn of another they will be left here.

As I walked I happened upon a set of swings.  A rusty tired metal frame adorned with thick chains joined at the base by a thick piece of rubber.  I sat for a moment swinging back and forth dragging my toes in the dusty shallow pit that knows not how many feet drug there before mine.  It was here where I first felt.  It was in this very swing that my eyes were captured and captured by what I always believed was an angel.  She told me her name was Sophia and she had so much in common with me.  She was 10, I was 10, she liked pine apple I liked pineapple and our first discussion was simply that, finding out just how alike we were to each other.  It was a night much like this when we met, right here at the park, right here beneath a full moon on a warm August night.

I had a penchant for sneaking out at night and wandering about the town, in my mind I was a masked vigilante patrolling the streets looking for the proverbial bad guys.  Truth is, had I met a bad guy I would likely have crapped my pants.  My terminus was almost always the park playground.  This old place was heavily secured by a 4 foot chain link fence and penetrating it, getting over it is about as tough as you could imagine.  No it was a night like this one when Sophia appeared on the swing right next to mine.  I had never seen Sophia at school before, that detail doesn’t matter very much in the mind of a 10 year old so meeting a kid you didn’t know before did not seem like that extraordinary an occurrence.  Sophia was angelic to look at. She had platinum blonde hair, straight and shiny. When it danced in the breeze it reminded me of a harp being strummed, I could almost hear it.  She had rosey little cheeks and she was missing most of her top row of front teeth.  She had explained that her baby teeth stuck around longer than they should have, you could tell the missing teeth bothered her greatly and when the topic came up it made her visibly nervous and uncomfortable, I eventually figured out that I shouldn’t be talking about them or pointing them out.  We became such fast friends, we met here on this playground at least three times a week.  

We played games and talked.  We talked for hours most of the time. I wouldn't be back in bed until just before the bus was coming to get me to bring me on to school.  I like Sophia, I may have even loved her, I loved what she was to me, a friend.  Sophia taught me what it meant to frolic.  That was her word, ‘frolic’.  In fact when we would see each other that was one of the first things she would say to me, it was kind of our hello she would say “Ready to romp and frolic?”  She said that she had heard it in a cartoon once.  So that is what we would do, romp and frolic.

It was our conversations I remember most.  She would ask me about my parents and my school and she was so genuinely interested in all my troubles and woes, she never failed to be engaged by what I had to say.  When I would ask her the same she was always vague and didn’t like talking about her parents very much.  It was very much like God had sent me a gift, she was just for me and my selfish little boy brain did not care to accept that gift.  We almost always ended our conversations with her asking me what I wanted for Christmas, she would even ask that question the day after Christmas and even the day before.  We didn’t talk about toys or sweets or any of that, we talked about gifts that would make our lives better.  I just wanted my parents to give a damn about me.  They did but in the mind of a child on the cusp of puberty, your dark days are always more intense than your light ones and I really felt like mine didn’t care about me very much.  Sophia would always tell me, “Hush, you know better, you know your mother cares about you.” in her sweetest and softest voice.  She would run her slender fingers across my cheek and through the hair at the side of my head.  I always noticed she didn’t have much to say about my father, like she really did know how my parents felt.  Maybe she was just guessing, maybe there were clues upon my face that gave away the heaviness of sorrow that laid heavy in my heart.  Sophia would talk about how controlling her parents were, how they have a grand destiny set for her and that she would grow to love what she would be doing.  She never told me much about that by the way I could just tell that she was exactly happy about it.  

Sophia and I grew older together and this playground is where we saw each other grow toward what we were becoming.  We both expanded proudly into skinny awkward teen agers.  Her holding onto that platinum blonde hair and me with my deep red curly locks, well I would say we made an extraordinarily weird looking couple, but we never ever saw each other outside of this playground.  For a time I even began to think that she may have been a figment of my imagination because nothing this good could be real.  I never knew the kindness that I was shown by Sophia, I never felt that kind of blind love from anyone.  There was a kind of magic about this playground, a kind of unexplainable goodness in it that the universe knew that I needed.

The last time we had seen each other was when we were both around 17.  I was preparing for college and I always assumed that Sophia was too.  She never told me where she was going to university.  I didn’t know and I didn’t care.   I was simply here to hear the words “Wanna’ romp and frolic?”  We did, just like we had during all those childhood days spent on the swings, monkeybars and our favorite, the merry go round.  That was really just Sophia’s favorite because she knew I would be the one to push, getting it to spin at a ridiculous velocity.  On that last night, our talks had grown much deeper since the two of us had gained some maturity, and what Sophia had to say was, for lack of a better description, deep.  Sophia turned to me as we were sitting on the merry-go-round and said ,”You know everything spins?” it was kind of a random thing to say but she continued with “yeah, atoms spin, thunderstorms spin, the earth spins, solar systems spin, galaxies spin, reality is a merry go round.”  I suppose that my blank expression hinted at the confusion in my head at what Sophia had just said.  “It’s true.”, she continued,”It’s the nature of everything to spin, you either hang on, get thrown off or you affect the spin yourself.”  “Oooooooo kayyyyyy then”, was all I could get out.  She looked at me intensely at this moment, this was an important thought to her, Sophia seemed a little disappointed that I wasn’t getting it.  I began spinning the merry go round  gently with Sophia on it.  “You mean like this.”  I said with a chuckle, trying to diffuse what I felt like was a growing tension.  “It’s important you know this and learn it for yourself, ya know we are all spinning.” she said.  “Guess that means that all of us will be throwing up from vertigo pretty soon huh?” I chuckled.  “You don’t get it, but that’s ok, maybe you can’t just yet, but you will some day and that’s all I can hope for… let’s play something else.” she exclaimed. “You are such a boy, you know that?” she asked rhetorically.  

We spent the night playing childish games, having both serious and not so serious conversations.  We enjoyed each other so much, she was my best friend and I hated that I wouldn’t see her for a while.

I never stopped thinking about this last weird exchange we had, the thing about spinning, I never quite understood where she was going with that, or at least I didn’t for a very long time.  My life began to spin, I went to college where I made many many mistakes and continued to make them long after I graduated.  I spent my time looking for anything that would make me feel as good as Sophia made me feel when we spoke.  Drugs, alcohol, sex and nothing ever got close to those nights at the playground.  I went through boughts of success and failure and always managed to land somewhere in the middle.  I moved frequently trying to satisfy whatever void there was that continued to grow within me.  I tried going back to the playground many times over the years waiting for that empty seat at the swings to be filled with my old friend.  She never came.  I continued to spin faster and more out of control throughout my life.  What Sophia never talked about was how when you spin fast enough you either rise or sink and in my state of mind and condition I was boring a hole down to the soul of the earth.

My forties came and that was the blossoming of a hell scented rose, one that I would inhale the fragrance of each and every morning.  I had no home, my parents had both passed away, no family left to speak of and the depression that had begun devouring me long ago had spat me out on the streets and that is where my existence made its home.  I made my home on the sidewalks outside old familiar places that now treated me as a vagrant rather than a valued guest.  I knew no love.  I blame Sophia for that.   No one ever made me feel what she did and when I would meet someone I thought might be “the one”, they never lived up to her in the ways that matter, in the ways that really count.  I began going to the park at night to sleep on one of the benches.  My head resting on hard primered wood framed in iron my last thought each day usually had something to do with how ruined a person I had become, how much time I wasted and finally how much I missed my dear friend.

A Saturday came, each day was like the next. When I could remember what day it was it didn’t really matter.  I walked the streets of my hometown begging for change or food wherever I could get my hands on.  If it was pocket change I would squirrel it away until I could afford to purchase a pint of oblivion.  I hated remembering so much, it was painful for me and the only doctor I could afford was made of a brown fluid that stung my lips and tongue and burned every inch of my throat on its way to my stomach.  My habit was to see my doctor just before I went to sleep, by way of passing out.  This Saturday that came however was different for when my foot found its way onto the playground I saw her setting in the swing just like we were teenagers again, there she was Sophia sitting in her seat waiting for me. 

Sophia dragging her feet much the same way I had all those years ago.  I approached and found my spot next to her.  She had changed little, still nearly angelic in appearance, skinny platinum hair with a random gray hair here and there.  “You’ve been spinning.” she stated as she looked over at me as I sat in the swing next to her.  “I have, I really have.” I replied.  “It’s my fault you know I did this to you, I never should have talked to you, I’m so sorry.” she said sobbing as tiny tears began to stream down her cheek.  “What do you mean?  I did this to myself, I did this trying to find the feeling you gave me.  These are where my choices led me.”  I said to her trying to remove the guilt she was obviously feeling.  Sophia then reached over to take my hand and nodded at me in disagreement.

Sophia stood and began walking toward the merry go round, with her hands dug into the pockets of her blue jeans.  A cool breeze danced between us, upsetting some fallen leaves.  I looked up to see that there were no stars in the sky, this combined with the chill of the air told me that there would be a storm soon.  Sophia said nothing but motioned me over, and like old times I began pushing her on the merry go round. “I know where you’ve been you know?” Sophia quipped.  “You went to really shady places inside and out, haven’t you?”she further asked.  “I have, I never stopped thinking about you, wondering where you were.  Where were you anyway? I came here looking for you a multitude of times and this is the first of seen you since we were both 17.” I asked.  “Oh, you know, I went off to become what I was intended to be.”she replied,”My parents wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’ve been doing the same job ever since.  I actually have to go to work pretty soon, I just really needed to see you before I went.”, said Sophia.

Sofia stood and as she did I pulled against the merry-go -round to slow it down, looking  up at the sky, “It isn’t going to rain you know, I’d be able to smell it.” She said,  “I think the stars have gone out.”  “What are you talking about, it’s just cloudy is all, it looks like tht when it’s going to rain.”I said zealously.  “No you don’t understand, the stars aren’t showing because I turned them off.” Sophia muttered.  I began to worry at this point, Sophia had never spoken this way and honestly I thought maybe she had spun herself a little too hard.  Sophia took me by the hand and began pulling me toward the treacherous 4 foot fence I conquered as children.  “What do you see?”  Sofia asked.  Looking out past the fence I couldn’t see anything, it was just thick, black inky darkness.  I didn’t understand what was happening, it seemed as though there was nothing outside the playground.  Sofia continued to look up at the bold void in the sky.  “I know what you need for christmas this year, I know what you’ve been asking for and I’ve come to give this gift to all but for you, for my dearest old friend I bring you that gift personally.”Sofia said ominously.

Ominous at first but the understanding I had of what was happening began to leak in across the alcoholic haze I had lived in.  “So what is it you want for Christmas, I know what it is but I have to hear you say it, you have to say it before you can have it.” Sofia said tearfully.  “I just want to rest Sofia, I just want to stop.  I want oblivion.”I replied again tearfully.  The darkness once confined to the outside of the fence began to pour into the playground, until it was only Sofia and I in the only speck of light that I could see.  She placed her arms around me and whispered in my ear, “I am the omega, the end of all time, the end of all, and I have come to grant you this gift my old and dear friend… but don’t worry we can still romp and frolic.”

July 18, 2022 06:07

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1 comment

Daniel R. Hayes
05:35 Jul 20, 2022

Hi Randy! This story really captured me and I thought you did a great job with this. Keep up the great work, and thanks for all the likes on my stories and the follow, I did the same. :)

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