Go to the haunted attraction, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. As the meme goes, the first autumn leaf falls and you gracefully slide into Spoopy’s black spandex and start gyrating. You crave an atmospheric treasure that can only be spear-headed by someone’s crazy aunt with a regional accent that’ll knock you in the asshole until all you can hear is nails on chalkboard. She may or may not also have $80,000 in credit card bills and the ear lobes of Kris Jenner. But all that anal-ear bleeding comes at a price; you must make the lower-middle class haj from the city to the god forsaken clusterfuck town whose proof of existing is limited to a a fuzzy memory of spotting its name on a tired exit sign on the interstate.
Fuck. You’re twenty minutes on the road and you realize that the GPS has taken you onto the Inter-county Connector, the post-apocalyptic trail of tears where drones take pictures of your car and mail you your toll because fuck job creation. You remember that your plates are registered at your parents’ house so you make a note on your mental calendar in a month’s time when your ma calls you up trifling about your reckless $4 debt. But, as your ma also once said, it’s too late to abort it, so you journey on.
After miles, Siri returns with her siren song, directing you to the exit ramp lit only by the parking lots of liquor marts looming in the distance. Fuck Middle East, Baltimore; Simba’s found the true shadowy place. The darkness wains and then grows as you veer off the main drag and into the woods dotted only with churches fit for the set of Jesus Camp II: Daddy-Daughter Redemption. Siri keeps echoing “arriving now,” arriving now,” but you find yourself in a 50 car backup from the overwhelming demand for spoop not easily accommodated by narrow country back roads. The car of teenagers in daddy’s Prius in front of your becomes increasing disillusioned with party rocking, pulling off onto a dark side road, naively willing to walk the rest of the way; the same breed of white people that refuses to flee their house, even when their nice cross-covered accent wall brought to you by HomeGoods starts inverting en masse. Even the great overlord of Apple omnipotence soon tires, her voice fading like the end of the record. You grip the wheel, 2 and 10, low key waiting for Cleetus to quit fucking his sister long enough to descend from the woods and get this chainsaw chasing on the road.
Just when you begin to start pondering what evolutionary sense it makes to have masochism woven into the human psyche to the point where you’re willing to sit in a literal fucking traffic jam to be artificially brushed with death, a county policeman in an orange vest motions his flashlight from your car to the entrance driveway. You wonder if he is excited or let down about the reality that he is directing traffic down at the Meadow of Mayhem instead of spearheading human trafficking stings or squashing the fentanyl trade. He looks off into the distance towards the basketball court at the edge of the campground, plotting to unleash a photo op on unsuspecting community youths. Shuttering at how predators seem to infiltrate a haven for kiddos, you hook a quick left to the parking area that you’re quickly realizing is the meadow. There’s no place else to go but out the window, so all you can do is brace for impact. Fasten your seatbelt, cunts, you warn the rest of the car. We’re about to off-road a Ford Focus. Narrowly managing to pull up next to the Camaro being baked, you try to suppress the thought of later having to reverse through grass into the darkest corners of your mind.
Like uncle Varg’s Aryan forefathers, your primal adrenaline begins to pump as you put on a strong hoof to the entrance to Valhalla waiting at the end of another long wooded trek. Your squad laughs amongst themselves, but you become too focused on mentally defeating the icy knives of the permafrost. That porous Instathot Brandy Melville cardigan doesn’t constitute proper outerwear. You dumb fucking bitch. You downgrade from Viking warrior to rolling pretzel as you desperately grip your arms and then your chest. I’m gonna flush the rest of that pack tomorrow, you lie. Just when you begin considering that late-term abortion, you spy the arches of the entranceway, perplexingly dressed in Medieval Times-looking dragon heads, and feel like you’re in the end of the Descent; a torn and tattered chick finally busting through the zombie-hobbit hole towards the light of the daystar.
You approach that white folding table on the other side. You know the one. When you went out with your girlfriends in high school for a nice night but ended up at Becky’s boyfriend’s dealer’s garage while some kid in a Monster logo snapback asks you one too many times to go roll tits with him. Yeah, that’s the table you would be pretending to chug green apple Burnett’s around. Although it mocks you like a sinisterly smiling patient at the end of a short-circuiting hospital hallway, you approach it bravely, tearing a waiver off the pad and signing it before turning for a quick sprint to the safety of the ticket booth. But before you can make your track and field debut, your hear it looming behind you.
It’s that one friend. You know the one. When you went out for a nice night but he ended up sloppily telling innocent bar patrons about this one cop who keeps issuing CDS warrants on him because he has it out for his music career. Jet fuel can’t melt his tinfoil hat. Yeah, he’s the one that’s taking the time to fumble through the fine print. Although he points out that it says you might sever a limb if you don’t keep your arms in the truck bed, you grab him by the shoulders and look him in the eye, but before you can offer your voice of reason, you hear it looming in front of you. It’s the Meadow worker overseeing the table – Randy in his Ravens jersey, wisecracking about how Steelers fans have to go to the back of the line. The strings of his New Balance sneakers were strewn all over the ground like the snakes of Medusa. You and your friend embrace with a scream and finally go for that run.
After a mugging at the ticket counter that leaves you with nothing but two lighters and a Sacagawea coin, you decide it might be a good idea to hit the pisser in the camp cabin after all the Red Bull you had to chug on the way up to actually stay awake past 9:00. You contemplate busting in the lineless men’s room, but figure there’s no way it could be as neat as the women’s room. Wrong. You enter to see literal liquid shit all over the floor that you and everyone else is mentally reconciling as mud. Sitting on the toilet like a gargoyle, you try to take yourself to your happy place. Baby giraffes frolicking across the Serengeti, their ears carelessly shaking in the breeze. You exit your stall and reassure yourself that you’re half way there, but then you spot all of the chick standing in front of the sinks looking as if they just saw Michael Meyers himself lurking in the mirror reflection. What? you wonder. That is until you hit the soap dispenser to discover nothing coming out. Panicking, you slam the button over and over again in desperation, hoping for a different result. Before you know it, you’ve become just another zombie until your friends yelling for you through the door snap you out of the dread. You figure you can just have one of the chainsaw men chop of your hands later.
Finally, the coup de grace – you’ve made it to the hayride. But first, a two hour endurance test. The line to the entrance of the cornfield snakes all the way across the camp ground under a full autumn moon that has hoards of people’s children carrying on like werewolves. There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of being 14 and let out of the house. As the knives of the permafrost strike more forcefully now that you’ve found yourself at a standstill, but at least the couple in front of you has found that groping each other is a great way to keep warm. Your shivering hands check to see if Bae has messaged you back. Nothing. And to think, he was just active four minutes ago. As survival mode sets in, you begin to urgently scan the crowd to see who you could use to ensure the survival of your seed before your imminent death. The heterosexual nu-metal version of Gaahl’s ex-boyfriend is spotted; a blonde, flat ironed, narrow-hipped little ephebe in a Breaking Benjamin shirt. My, how the tables have turned. The jailbait has grown into the predator. You open Snapchat and put it in selfie mode to find it staring back at you – a monster.
As the high schoolers behind you start to practice their choir songs, as the feeling in your limbs continues to peace out, as your spirit unceremoniously begins to break, you are finally hit with a reprieve. Your party is in the next round admitted into the depths of the corn, which, as it turns out, you seem to be allergic to. Through your sneezing, you can hear your Facebook messenger alert tone. It’s bae! He sent a picture of the whisky he was drinking with a witty caption about how it would keep you warm, but before you can even respond, the ubiquitous event staff TSA agent starts screaming at the group to hurry it along into the trampled hay of the truck bed. Squeezed next to a kind of cute redneck kid in a sensible hoodie and baseball cap, you get a bit of a jolly from having your legs touch – another stark reminder of how badly you need to put something in there. With nothing more than a few trigger warnings from the driver, you’re off.
Fake corpses hanging in nooses, a spoopy sountrack, and smoke machines. A couple of school shooters phoning it in in their clown costumes pretend to stare menacingly as you drive by. You and your friends begin to realize that you had been duped into investing in an event that’s on the higher end of mediocre, and cope the only way you know how – by being complete jackasses. DICKS OUT FOR HARAMBE! is shouted. The redneck turns and very seriously informs you that Harambe is in his Fantasy Football league. You laugh uncomfortably. And with that, the truck stops right where you began.
Staring into one of the fire pits set up outside of the corn, you contemplate everything you have done to get to a point where you’ll listening to some eighth grade fuckboy tickle the pussies of his adoring posse of white Chucked, puffer vested fans. He was the only thing captivating enough to make them stop Snapping with the puppy filter. The flames dance in your pupils. Thankfully, one of your friends suggests you guys call it a night, but the journey back to the Focus proves to be the most treacherous yet. You begin to become disoriented as if you and your friends had been plucked into Black Hills Forest. No, we came from this way one insists. No, we definitely went past the lake you dingus is retorted. Meanwhile, you’re simply trying to prevent falling on your face from having all ten toes transformed into feelingless ice nubs. Your mind temporarily blacks out, and all of the sudden you find yourself in the driver’s seat with the heat on blast, desperately hoping it’s not just a mirage.
As your body defrosts, you find yourself in desperate need of sustenance. With the last dying breath of your phone battery, Siri locates at Taco Bell only 2.3 miles away. You survey the car about the possible pit stop, but are taken aback by the surprisingly poor reception. I just want to head back. You really want Taco Bell right now? I would only eat it in solidarity. All of the shame and betrayal overwhelms you as the last bud falls from your rose. Man’s inhumanity to man; a reality more horrifying than any product of human imagination.