‘Granma. Granma. Are you okay?’ William shakes me awake as the scream dies in my throat.
‘What? Oh sorry William, Granma just had a scary dream. Everything’s alright now. My brave Sir William has saved me from the monster.’
We have made it to the small coastal town where I grew up. My daughter and her husband are in the adjoining room and William and I share this one. The trip has been planned for sometime but once I found out I was ill again it was rushed forward. William doesn’t know, he thinks the trip is a special treat because he got such good grades this year. He’s only seven, so there’s no need to spoil his holiday. One day I will tell him what happened and the true story of the great uncle he is named after. I have written it all in my diary. Documented all the times since Billy disappeared that I thought I saw him, always in a theme park or fairground.
It is early in the morning when William has woken me from my nightmare and we start to get ready. My daughter and her husband have asked me to take William out this morning, no need to wake them, they deserve a holiday too. We rush down to breakfast but William is too excited to eat and I am too distracted, so we grab some bread and cheese and smuggle it out of the dining room. As we arrive in the lobby William notices that the bus to the pier is standing outside. I let him rush off to stop it and as I arrive he is regaling the bus driver with tales of all the fantastic things he is going to do today.
‘You should go on the big dipper,’ says the bus driver.
‘The big dipper?’ William searches his vocabulary but can’t picture what this could be.
‘It’s a little train that goes high in the sky and then sinks underground. I bet it’s as old as your Granma here.’
William looks between me and the bus driver convinced that there can’t be anything in the world as old as I am. The big dipper is nearly as old as I am.
The first day it opened was the day Billy and I had been allowed to go to the pier alone for the first time. I had been ill for nearly a year but had been in remission for a few months. The regular check up trip to the doctors the day before had not gone well and mum had been distracted when she said we could go to the pier alone. I knew something was wrong but I felt okay so didn’t worry too much. Billy had gone on and on about the big dipper and how I had to go on with him, as he couldn’t leave me on my own. Eventually I had agreed, but I didn’t want to. It looked too scary for my liking. I didn’t remember anything about the ride and Billy’s disappearance. Everyone said the ride had broken down in the tunnel but it couldn’t have, we were only in the tunnel a few seconds. The following week when I put on the coat I had been wearing that day, inside the pocket was a letter. No not a letter, more a contract. I never showed it to anyone.
We spent the day wandering around the pier enjoying the smaller rides but William couldn’t take his eyes off the big dipper.
‘Please Granma, please. Just once. It can be our secret.’ I knew his mother wouldn’t be happy, but it wasn’t as big as some of the rides you see these days, it didn’t even loop-the-loop.
As we got on the ride, my hands started to sweat. William grabbed hold and smiled. ‘Don’t worry Granma, I’ll look after you. Nothing bad will happen.’
The car started up and we climbed to the top of the first hump slowly, as it petered on the top it lurched forwards and started careering around the track as gravity pulled it on. I am almost starting to enjoy it as we reach the top of the final peak. I look down and see the hole below, smoke billowing out, and the earth ready to swallow us whole. I grab William’s hand and hold tight, closing my eyes. As we reach the bottom the car shudders to a halt. Surely it should rise again. I slowly open my eyes and suddenly I am ten again. I remember it all, exactly the same as it had been then. Just the two of us and then from the shadows he materialises. ‘At last! Had you forgotten? Ah your final payment.’ He smiles and pulls William from the car. William struggles against the man’s vice like grip. I turn to try and grab William but the car starts to move away. I look in William’s eyes and all I see is Billy and the noise of the fairground above drowns out our screams.