Free Rides: The Ink Well Weekly Fiction Prompt #3: Beauty With a Twist

Note: I do acknowledge that this story might be a bit too long to be considered a short story in, especially in comparison with the other fine work I have seen here. I have found myself facing two choices A) Edit it down by losing some events in the story or B) Present it the way I believe it should be presented. I went with the latter. I hope you understand and enjoy it.

Image Source: PIXBAY

"We might need help from God", those words echoed through Ali's head in his sleep before waking up panicking like an explosion just occurred. He looked around his bed only to hear Farah, his wife, continuing her speech "Isn't that right, honey?".

"What?", Ali bafflingly responded.

"What's wrong, Ali?", Farah looked concerned "You're sweating"

"I am fine', Ali said "I just had a series of nightmares"

"A series, huh?", Farah responded sarcastically "Looks like you the premium nightmare deals"

"HA!", Ali laughed " Yeah, sure looks like it"

"So what were they all about?", Farah asked "Or at least, one of them"

"They all seem like they on the tip of my tongue" Ali looks dumbfounded "They all seemed chaotic and almost out of order"

"How so?" Farah asked with intrigue.

"I don't know", Ali quickly stops himself "Well, on the first one I was in a hospital, severely injured. I could almost see myself getting operated on. It ends with me lying in a hospital bed, covered from head to toe with bandages, Helpless with only my father beside me. I don't remember the rest"

"Well,", Farah said with a hyped-up voice "You're okay now. Now, go wash your face and dress up so we could take Noor to a theme park to celebrateEid"

Farah left the bedroom as Ali headed to the bathroom to wash his face. He stares at the mirror for a second before hearing a stranger woman's voice asking "How are you feeling now?", Ali quickly turns around half panicking before finding him standing in front of a big sign that said in all capital letters "WELCOME TO THE GRAND OPENING", beneath big letters made out of neon lights reading "LEARZA THEME PARK".

"You haven't answered me", Farah said with an irritated voice "How are you feeling now?"

"I am fine", Ali responded "Just a little confusion"

"Snap out of it", Farah encouraged Ali "We will need to keep an eye on the Noor"

Ali's phone suddenly started ringing.

"Hello", Ali answered "How are you, dad?

"Ali, where are you?", Ali's father asked "I thought you were coming to pick me up so I could spend some time with you guys"

"Yes, dad. I am sorry", Ali said in an apologetic tone "Something came up, we are already there now"

"What happened?", his father asked.

"Well, were on the way", Ali stopped for a second to think about what he was going to say before he heard a loud voice speaking through speaker phones "Welcome to the Learza theme park grand opening"

Ali looked to find a podium beneath with a man in a white suit speaking on the microphone "I am your host Daemon. I am the owner and creator of this place. To celebrate our opening we have made each ride in the theme park free for anyone who enters"

"Dad, I am sorry I need to go now", Ali hung up the phone as he was surrounded by a sea of cheers.

"You also won't be waiting in lines, so remember". Daemon said "It's always your turn".

Quickly after the podium was removed and the big golden gates behind between white fences were opened ushering in hundreds of people.

"Dad", Ali turned down to find his little daughter Noor tugging on his pants "Can you carry me? My chest hurts"

"Of course, baby", Ali said while picking up Noor "Dad is here for you, don't be scared".

As they were walking into the theme park Ali was pondering what he had just said. Inside the theme park, everyone was impressed by the beauty of it. A perfect design. Felt like it was tailored to each person.

"It's amazing, isn't it?", Farah asked Ali "Everything kind of seems too far when you just want to walk and close enough when you want it to be. Even the way the wind blows, the breeze complementing the weather. Right?"

"Honey, I am sorry to disappoint you", Ali said with half a smile "But I have no idea what you're talking about"

"Oh, come on!", Farah tries to encourage Ali "I know you're slightly discomforted because you have to hold Noor, but you have to feel that"

"Actually", Ali interjects "Carrying Noor is kind of the only thing comforting me at the moment"

"You haven't even reached for a cigarette like you always do when you're not comfortable", Farah smiles smugly.

"Sorry to disappoint you again", Ali responds alike before reaching to show his pack of cigarettes "It's empty"

"Whatever", Farah said with a smile on her face as she inhales the mixture of summer with the cold air breezing through the trees, directed to the crowd by the statues and pictures hanging all around the inside walls with religious imagery.

Arriving at the swings, it was like Daemon promised, no lines.

"Okay, Noor", Farah said "Do you want to go on the slide?"

"I think she's too tired or something", Ali responded quickly.

"I am fine, dad", said a suddenly refreshed Noor "I want to go on the slide"

Ali hesitates to put her down before he reluctantly does so before Noor heads toward the steps to slide back down. With a smile on her face Noor heads toward the swings as Farah and Ali watch from afar. Ali gleefully watches Noor as she goes up the long steps with a big smile on her face.

"What's wrong with you today?". Farah asked Ali "You haven't been acting normal"

"I, I don't know", Ali said with a sad, confused look on his face "Here I am having a perfectly great day and I just feel something is wrong, something is missing. Maybe it's just that my dad isn't with us. It's been a tradition that he comes out with us to celebrate the first day of Eid, yet today, he is not. Why didn't we go to him?"

"Maybe it's just the nightmares you had", Farah tried to comfort Ali "Just tell me what you remember from them and maybe we could put the pieces together. How many exactly did you have?"

"Three", Ali answered "I barely remember anything from them"

"Well, try" Farah encouraged Ali "Close your eyes and really try"

"It doesn't work that way", Ali objected.

"Just humor me", Farah requested.

"Okay", Ali agreed and closed his eyes as fragments of memory started getting together "I remember myself just laying on my back in the middle of the street, surrounded by tens of people running around. I could hear screaming all around me, and sirens. I was just laying on my back, exhausted, and whispering for help. That's it"

"No wonder you've been cranky", Farah said in an understanding tone "That's always been your greatest fear: being alone and unheard."

"Yeah", Ali agreed reluctantly "That's probably it"

"Anyway", Farah said "This slide looks fun, I am going to join Noor. Do you want to join us?"

"No, I am fine", Ali responded "You go ahead"

Ali turned his sight to Noor and Farah as they slid down full of joy, an infectious smile that slowed down Ali's racing heart as it painted a smile on his face. Suddenly, Ali felt a shock running down his spine, he turned around to see Daemon standing behind him.

"Hi, I hope you are having a good day", Daemon said "My name is Daemon"

"Yeah," Ali said "I know who you are. Yeah, I am starting to"

"Anything not to your liking?" Daemon asked "I want everything to be absolutely perfect for everyone here"

"Actually everything does seem to be perfect, it's just me", Ali said before looking around him "What's with all the religious imagery here?|

"Just a reminder to comfort people", Daemon answered.

"Aha", Ali nodded.

"Is there anything I could do to make your stay any better?", Daemon asked with a hit of desperation in his tone.

"Probably not", Ali responded "You seem to have gone all out to make this the best place it could be. Something is just missing for me"

Daemon looked at Ali then around with sadness.

"Hey, you don't have to beat up yourself over it", Ali assured Daemon "After all, it's just a one day visit"

"It might be longer than that", Daemon responded "That's why I am asking if there's anything you need"

"Wait", Ali confusingly asked "What do you mean by that?"

"Hey, we're done", Ali turned around to hear Farah saying.

"Hey, dad", Noor said "Did you see how Mommy almost fell on her face?"

"No, honey. I was busy talking to...", Ali turned around to see that Daemon had gone "Someone..."

"Alright", Farah said with excitement "I promised Noor that we'd take her on a roller-coaster ride"

"A roller-coaster ride!", Ali exclaimed before whispering to Farah "Are you sure you want to take a small, seven years old girl on a roller-coaster ride?"

"I know, it sounds bad", Farah explains "But I promised Noor I'd take her and everyone I asked said it was okay and that it was completely okay. Even the kids who were on it were completely fine"

Ali agreed reluctantly and they started walking toward the roller-coaster. On the way Farah stopped.

"Hey", Farah said while looking at the rest room sign "I really need to go. Take Noor and go before me"

"I am not leaving without you!", Ali screamed before having a confused look on his face, matching the one on Farah's face "Why did I just say that? Why did I say it like this"

"I don't know", Farah said with a strict tone "But you need to calm down and relax"

"I agree", Ali submitted "However, I am going to be waiting for you to finish"

"Fine", Farah said before walking toward the rest room taking Noor with her.

After Farah and Noor walked out, all three started heading to the roller-coaster.

"I don't want you to take this the wrong way", Farah said "It's just a feeling I have. But it seems like you don't want to be with us. It's okay if you don't"

"What?! No!", Ali exclaimed "It's quite the opposite. The only reason I am here is because that's all that I actually want"

"Alright, then", Farah said with a smile on her face "I just wanted to know"

Ali, Noor, and Farah arrive at the roller-coaster, the height of which almost reached the clouds.

"Are you sure you want to take Noor on this ride?", Ali asked Farah.

"Yeah", Farah replied "From the way you're asking I am guessing you don't want to come with us"

"I don't", Ali replied "I want to use the time you'd be on it to just calm down myself"

"That's good", Farah replied "And maybe by then you could remember your third nightmare and we could talk about it. And you will join us on the next ride"

Ali nodded in agreement as Farah and Noor went on the roller-coaster ride. Just as Ali closed his eyes trying to remember his third nightmare he could feel this presence that sends shivers down his core leaving his hands shaking and eyes open like an alert stray cat that stops eating as it hears footsteps.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?", Ali turned to find a bearded man wearing a big, black, buttoned up coat talking to him. Not knowing the reason he feels that way, Ali looks around to see if he is missing something only to see everyone around staring at the man. A force of an ominous feeling shared by Ali and everyone around.

"A beautiful, magnificent roller-coaster", the man said "Just amazing, isn't it?"

"Yeah", Ali tried to say very little and pick his words carefully while looking behind him as his family's cart starts its journey. Ali stands right in front of the man terrified but determined to block his way from heading toward the roller-coaster.

"I always wanted to be on this ride", the man says to Ali "Do you remember the Iraqi term we use to describe this?"

"The path of death", Ali answers. Before security guards come out of nowhere and start dragging the man out of the theme park as he screams.

"No, no, no!" The man screamed "I did everything to get here! I gave out my life for this"

Standing in shock, Ali looks as the man is being dragged away to see Daemon behind, giving him an assuring smile before walking toward the center of the crowd.

"There's no reason for anyone to feel unrest anymore", Daemon assures the people "That man snuck in but we are removing him and he won't be here ever again"

The sound of Daemon's voice was slowly vanishing from Ali's ears as he was walking behind the bearded man as he was being dragged away screaming. Ali looks to his left to find a man sitting on a chair. A furniture chair that didn't match any of the ones in the park.

"Why didn't come to me right away?", the man asked.

"I am sorry, dad", Ali apologizes to the man "It was on my mind. I don't know what happened. Do you think I didn't want you with us? I love talking to you and I enjoy hearing you talk about all the random things"

"Do you know who Azrael is?", Ali's father asked.

"The angel of death", Ali answers.

"The angel of death", Ali's father continues "But, do you know how Hebrew also interprets the name?"

"No, dad. What?", Ali asked with intrigue.

"A help from God", Ali's father carried on then said with a sad tone "I waited for you all day"

"I am sorry, dad", Ali broke down "I really am."

"I kept waiting for you", Ali's father reiterates.

"Dad!", Ali shouted loudly "Can't you hear me?"

"Okay, we're done", Ali looks behind him to see Farah holding Noor's hand "Do you remember your third nightmare now?"

"Why didn't you just come to me right away?", Ali's father asked.

"Dad, I was going to!", Ali shouted as he started to remember. He continued with a calm yet terrified tone "We got into the car and were on our way to you then we passed by this little clothes compound that had a store then..." Ali stops for a few seconds.

"I stopped to get cigarettes", Ali breaks down in tears as he looks at Farah and Noor "I shouldn't have stopped to get cigarettes, should I have"

Ali blinked for a second before finding himself in the driver seat of a car.

"Why are we stopping for cigarettes?", Farah said with a frustrated "They smell horrible, plus your father is probably waiting"

"Dad, I want you to buy me ice cream", Noor said from the back seat.

"See? Noor wants ice cream as well", Ali justified "I won't take longer then a second, I promise"

Ali headed to the store, passing by what seemed like thousands of people in the short distance. Families and children shopping for clothes to wear on Eid. Ali got to the store and asked for cigarettes and ice cream.

"What kind of ice cream?", the store clerk asked.

"Wait, let me ask my daughter", Ali said. As Ali walked toward the car, he saw a bearded man wearing a big, black, buttoned coat emerge from behind it. The man quickly unbuttoned his coat to reveal a bomb hidden underneath it attached to his body. Ali rushed to stand between the man and the car. The bomb went off with Ali a few meters away. Everything went to black.

Ali opened his eyes to see black smoke all over, he quickly turned his sight toward his car. It's now flipped upside down. Ali tried to stand up but no avail as he found his right leg obliterated, he dragged himself toward the now slowly burning car. Ali arrived at the car to see Noor halfway out the window.

"Dad", Ali heard Noor as she was grabbing on his shirt "Can you carry me? My chest hurts"

"Of course, baby", Ali said as he saw edges of glass breaking through Noor's back "Dad is here for you, don't be scared".

As Ali was uselessly trying to take Noor out of harm's way as the glass was still attached to the door, he noticed Farah dazing, half asleep half awake.

"Farah! Farah!", Ali shouts "Get up, honey. The car is about to explode"

"The car is about to explode", Farah barely managed to get the words out "I will try to get out, take Noor and go before me"

"I am not leaving without you!", Ali screamed desperately.

Ali was quickly dragged away by two samaritans trying to keep him away from the burning car before walking away to tend to others.

"No!" Ali screamed out his lung "I need to get my family"

The loss of blood started to get Ali to faint as he whispered "Help", over and over again.

Ali opened his eyes to find himself standing in a long hallway with white walls all around. He looked ahead to find Daemon standing in front of a room door. Ali walks toward him with anger.

"You knew this all along, didn't you?", Ali shouted "All these people, living in oblivion. When are you going to tell them?"

"How?", Daemon stared helplessly at Ali ``How do you tell them? I don't know how"

"Why me, then?", Ali asked "Why am I the only one who's feeling this unrest?"

Daemon looked at Ali then tilted his head toward the room door. Ali went closer to the door to hear his father's voice asking in tears "Why didn't you just come to me right away?". Ali quickly opened the door to find himself laying in a hospital bed with his father sitting next to him in a wooden chair. Ali quickly leaves and closes the door.

"So, now what?", Ali asked "What will happen to me? Am I going to remain stuck like this? What will I do?"

"Whatever you want", Daemon answered "Just think of what you want and I will help you"

Ali stood for a second and closed his eyes before opening the door.

Ali found himself standing again in front of the roller-coaster next to Farah and Noor.

"Are you people having a good time?", they look to see Daemon asking them.

"Yes, very", Noor responded gleefully.

"Same here", Farah answered.

"What about you?", Daemon turned his sight to Ali "Are you having a good time?"

"Yes, can't complain", Ali answered with a smile "You're Daemon, right? You're the one who was speaking on the mic earlier"

"Yes", Daemon responded before leaving "I am glad you're having a good time".

"It's amazing, isn't it?", Farah asked Ali "Everything kind of seems too far when you just want to walk and close enough when you want it to be. Even the way the wind blows, the breeze complementing the weather. Right?"

"Yeah", Ali answered "Everything seems so peaceful. I really needed this"

"Good", Farah smiled.

"Let's goooo!", Noor demanded

"Are you sure you want to take Noor on this ride?", Ali asked Farah.

"Yeah", Farah replied "From the way you're asking I am guessing you don't want to come with us"

"No, I really do", Ali answered. Then the three went on the roller-coaster together.

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