Who’s Afraid of Roller Coasters?

THE thing about fear is that the more you run away from it, the more it comes after you. Until you actually confront it, it wouldn’t go away. I guess it’s like what Oscar Wilde once said: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” So if I crave chocolate, I go eat chocolate. And if I’m scared of roller coasters, I get on one with dread and fear, but a pretend lionheart.

In all of my eleven years, I’ve only been on two roller coaster rides until I got on board the Revenge of the Mummy at Sentosa’s Universal Studios. I knew this was no kiddie roller coaster because my mother and elder sister had been on it many times.

“You’d crash into a beetle-infested wall,” said my sister.

“And it’s really dark, you can’t see anything,” my mother added.

It doesn’t help that the entrance to the ride feels like the entrance to a dungeon: you have to walk a good three minutes before you come face to face with a sleek, shining black carriage. Our choice row was the second, not the first—no, thank you!

As soon as we pulled the overhead harness down—my mother on my left, Auntie A. on my right, and her son, M. on her right—I couldn’t help feeling how Fear had cheated me into this ride. Why does he have this hold on me?

“Come on, Becky!” he seems to say, bulldozing all of my persistent “no’s.”

But “no” was too late, for the carriage had glided gently forward, taking us through a parade of treasure chests laden with gold coins and ingots, left and right, in a cavernous tunnel filled with hieroglyphics. It was as if King Tutankhamen was taking us on a tour of his hideout, showing off his treasures and exploits.

Soon, a mummy came into view, its back facing us, before turning around to reveal a faceless, bulbous, bandage-bound head, and a goblet in his hand with wisps of smoke stealing into the still, spooky air. The scene glided into another of human bones strewn about on the ground and a menacing, dangling skeleton, just as a low spectral voice boomed: “You’ll never find the book!”

“What book?” I thought, but thinking has no place in a cave like this.

Then, the ride started to get real and mean. The carriage spun horizontally on its axis before moving forward then back, only to charge forward again right into that wall of beetles, a good two dozen of them, all a dark blue and almost a foot long. The crush of metal against rock pierced our ears.

Even though I half-knew what to expect next—a jolt back, I remembered my sister saying—it was something else. Our invisible chauffeur slid the carriage back slowly, almost carefully, only to snap back like a nasty whiplash. Oh, the screams!

Then, the carriage started on a slow ascent, taking its time, teasing us, turning on the suspense towards some peak where a giant hole stared us in the face—a hole of doom that welcomed us with plumes of green smoke. Now, we zipped down and up, with sharp and swift left and right turns—a frenzy of wild, mad movements in complete breathless darkness, long enough just for me not to have squeezed Auntie A’s hand blue, and my mother’s too.

Just as King Tut’s limo came to a cool, sleek stop, I sighed long and loud and took an equally long intake of breath. Yes, I wanted to get on the ride again, but no, I couldn’t. My heart was racing and thumping. But there’s always a second chance, a second visit, and I saved it for another day.

That’s the other thing about fear: you haven’t quite conquered it until you face it, not once, but twice, maybe more.

***
Becky Lai, Primary Six
February 2015

Also by Becky: The Best Things In Life Are Free

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