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The Haunted Snail

World Fantasy and Nebula Award-nominated Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches in the Pacific Northwest with occasional trips elsewhere. She is the current Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and its upcoming President. Her most recent book is debut novel Beasts of Tabat. For links to her stories as well as information about her popular online writing classes, see kittywumpus.net or sign up for her Patreon campaign at patreon.com/catrambo.
The Snail ride was haunted from the beginning, and what made it worse was that it was the slowest ride in the entire amusement park: an hour and a half of crawling along the track.
The architect had meant it to be a clever postmodern play on a haunted house ride, a deconstructed, ironic ride experience and all that cleverness did, really, was to attract ghosts, who are always drawn by irony.
Strap yourself in and start trundling along the track. Within a few minutes you'd feel spectral fingers combing your hair, readjusting your collar, removing schmutz from your nose. Ghosts are as bad as grandmothers when it comes to grooming people.
That might not have been so bad, if it would've been just that. But keep going and you'd hit the angry ghosts, the ones who like to pinch and nip, the ones that make babies cry unexpectedly, that refuse to let a cat rest in the sunlight, ghosts of fleas and ticks and temper tantrums.
Even then, the park might've done a good business with just ghost hunters, but every once in a while someone would emerge scared to death, and then there would be another ghost. Before long there were so many ghosts that the temperature dropped 30° as soon as you entered, and all the carnies in the neighboring booths had to wear mittens filled with garlic to keep their fingers free from otherworldly frostbite.
In the end, they just closed it down. The entire ride became a ghost itself, which no one could've predicted, and began to haunt the other rides. You'd step on a roller coaster and be riding the Snail simultaneously, rushing down the slope audition along an ectoplasmic track, feeling the tickly fingers of the ghosts poking in your mouth whenever you opened it to scream.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 28th, 2015


"The Haunted Snail" came out of one of my writing classes (as have many of my pieces on Daily Science Fiction, most recently "You Have Always Lived in the Castle"). Its origin was this image. The abruptness of the end is indeed a narrative ploy; let me know whether or not you thought it worked!

- Cat Rambo

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