*drag & drop the wee yellow person onto the square to listen and explore*
If you’re on a touch screen device (phone or tablet), this may not work
It’s such a relief to be away from the baking glare of the mid-morning sun and into the inviting shade. I go straight ahead, to a small cream-coloured building, until I’m knocked back by the smell of public toilets. Gross.
The last thing I expected when Katya whispered in my ear about the secret party in the abandoned theme park was that there would be so many adults and little kids. But this is just the perimeter of the park, I guess. Not the fenced off part.
It makes me feel uneasy though. Unfixed. I wasn’t expecting to be seen at all. Maybe Katya is here too, hidden under a wide-brimmed sunhat and dark glasses, waiting for me to bottle it and run back home.
All I have to do is write my name on something. It’s not much of a dare. But she said I had to break in. To get up high, if I could.
Nobody gets into the party without proof they’ve done it. It’s like a gang, she said. I’d had a patriotic glass of Pimms with Mum before we went out, the last of the rations from Duty Free, to celebrate surviving the past three weeks.
A gang. Katya repeated it, leaning so close I could feel her warm breath lifting the small hairs on the back of my neck. Exclusive.
She showed me pictures on her phone and my mouth ran away with me and I said I’d do it and she said great. Just that one word and the tip of her tongue, pink, between her gappy teeth.
So here I am.
But this is not an abandoned theme-park full of dark mystery and wonder and excitement. This is just a carpark. A crossroads next to tourists and toilets. And to my left there’s even a set of tables covered in leaflets, staffed by grinning volunteers. Just like one of Mum’s stupid community consultations last year.
I pull a muscle at the side of my neck, trying to get at the itch between my shoulder-blades. As the curse-words slip out, I half expect to hear Mum’s voice from the group at the tables.
I can hear dogs barking in the distance. There’s a guard in uniform. I think he actually has a gun on an actual gun belt.
I turn back. I’m not doing it. I can’t. I’m clearly in the wrong place or this whole thing was a weird prank. This was the worst idea I’ve ever had in my entire life. I turn right back around and the sun through the trees hits my eyes, full-on, and for a moment I lose my vision. I blink and stumble and kick my own ankle hard, right where the scab is, and then I see it.
A swan boat. Beached on the grass. Just like in the photos she showed me on her phone. Except in Katya’s photos there was a fleet of them, all at odd angles in the water, not surrounded by deckchairs and small children having a picnic.
I peer up ahead and – wouldn’t you know it – there’s the German equivalent of Mum handing out what look like glasses of warm white wine and there is the building from Katya’s instructions. Except it’s not empty; there’s a presentation going on inside it.
If even my most outrageous adventure ever brings me to yet another community consultation, perhaps I really am destined never to be cool. I wonder if this is what happened to Mum growing up: a moment when the world clicked into focus that this is it. This is all you’re ever going to be able to access. You will always be on the outside, watching the world happen to other people.
There’s something inside of me that other people just don’t warm to. They stop tuning in when I talk, let their eyes drift over to the other side of the room. As if I’m coated in a layer of slime that warns them not to bother with me. Maybe I give off a radio frequency, like a dog whistle sort of thing.
Except last night.
Except with Katya.
She said to go round the main building but there’s a guard this side. On the other side – past the table with the wine – there’s another swan boat. And beyond it, just trees.
Inside the building, everyone starts clapping. This is my chance. I step round the swan’s neck and I run.