There was once a girl who loved abandoned places and finding flowers growing in the most inhospitable environments. One of her favorite things in the world to see was a roller coaster eaten up by creeping vines of green. Whenever she would get sad or lonely, she would run away to some abandoned locale where she would befriend all the memories of a past long gone. She would weave them between her fingers like a spider weaving a web of the present from moments of the past. She would take in all the sounds of children laughing, music playing and adults bickering, and she would gather them up like daisies and weave new chains that she would then drape around the necks of lamp posts, door handles, rusty gates and tree branches.
She loved these places because they were full of emptiness. Because they were a gateway from one world to another. They were her playground and just in case there were no flowers yet growing, she would always don a floral printed dress, and if she ever came across a stranger with abandonment in their eyes and a pocketful of despair, she would pluck a flower from the skirt of her dress and tuck it behind their ear.
When she stepped foot into these places she found herself growing young again. She found herself shedding all of what humanity had pinned to her breast like a curse. Every banal and concrete affair of human existence would slither away like the ghost of a snake and she would feel lighter, less like a fleshy bag of blood and bones. Like she could knock on the door of any realm and enter free of admission.
One night—a particularly lonesome night—she packed a bag and hopped on The Abandoned Express. This train never stopped running and it had just one rule: only three people were permitted to get off at any particular stop—if you let too many people into an abandoned place, it would no longer be abandoned, and that simply wasn’t allowed. So they played it safe with this one and only rule. The point was that there should always be more memories and ghosts than living souls. So one night, she got on the train, took it to the seventh stop and got off.
This was her favorite place. This was the abandoned theme park with the roller coaster, the Ferris wheel whose seats had turned into giant flower pots, the funhouse that was now a birdhouse, and the merry-go-round full of rusty horses who seemed to watch you wherever you went. She loved the horses because she knew that she could trust them, tell them anything and that her secrets would always be safe. And tonight—on this very lonesome night—she had a lot to tell them. But when she got there she spotted a figure sitting atop one of the horses. He seemed as lifeless as the horses themselves, but as she approached him she realized that he was just like her. Very much alive and very much human. But she noticed something else too; there were vines creeping up his legs and arms, tying him down and intertwining his limbs with those of the horse.
“What’s happening to you?” she asked, her eyes wide with concern.
The stranger looked down at her, abandonment in his eyes and his pockets full of despair. “I was the fourth one to get off at this stop, I broke the rule. I didn’t listen. And now I’m going to die here.”
The girl, deeply saddened by this news, reached down her dress, plucked a white flower from the skirt, and tucked it behind his ear. And that’s when she realized why she loved abandoned places so much, because she could always leave. Because they were her playground and not her grave.