Jenny knew she was dreaming. She recognised the unrealistic sensation of her movements, and the all too familiar feeling of safety in a blatantly dangerous setting. Either that, or the fact that she had already been scared to her wits in this place once before made it somehow reassuring that she knew exactly what she was doomed to face.
She allowed herself a quick visual sweep over the theme park. The dark eeriness of shadows loomed over everything; rides and stands that in a more cheery scenario would seem so innocent. The same deadly attractions the shadowman created before remained in her vision of Joyland, all looping their menacing, out of tune fairground music and flashing lights that only seemed to add to the creepy, otherworldly atmosphere around her. She noticed the funhouse to her right where her friends had once helped her save Summer, and the Tunnel of Love and Despair distantly facing her where Julian had confessed the groups deepest secrets of which, to his dismay, had only brought them closer. She felt the overwhelming desire to feel the walls of these places again, remember all the spine tingling moments she had faced the prince of darkness to save the people she loved. Jenny looked into the starless black sky and sighed. This may have been the most popular location of her worst nightmares, but now it didn't even seem that bad. The theme park was totally empty, void of any grotesque shadow creatures or monsters, and the danger of being found by Julian was gone entirely. She wandered through the sea of rides, looking at the paper-eating lion head that had gnawed at Dee's arm in the last game, and casually passing the murky fish pond with it red-shingled roof where Audrey had been pulled in by Slugs headless, rotting body. A heavy mist crept in around her ankles, and built up as she stumbled deeper into the park. Jenny fought the urge to turn back to her safe spot.
The mischievous sensation she usually felt in the shadow park had returned. In the distance, she spotted the silhouette of a man masked by the mist reaching above her head, and Jenny froze. She was now by the Tunnel of Love and Despair, and could barely see the swan boat bobbing about in its entrance. The silhouette continued to drift towards her, and Jenny bent into the defence position that Dee taught her in preparation. She had used the kung fu that her beautiful African princess-like friend showed her so often now that it almost came naturally to Jenny, but even now she could taste the bile in her mouth as a result of her fear. As the features of the figure became more apparent, Jenny regained the ability to move and rushed to him.
"Grandfather!" she exclaimed, throwing herself around the old man's neck.
"Hello Jenny" he chuckled lightly, patting her on the back briefly and pulling out of her grip, "Good to see you." She absorbed his human appearance; the tired, dark eyes and thinning white hair were traits Jenny never forgot, and she inhaled the peppermint smell she always associated with him. He wore the same blue cardigan sweater he'd worn the day the Shadowmen had taken him, and tucked wrinkly hands into beige pant pockets.
"What are you doing in my nightmare?" Jenny suddenly became aware of the bizarre situation. She had dreamt of Joyland many times, sometimes replaying the vulgar scenes where Dee, Audrey and Michael had harmed themselves trying to save Zach and Tom, or the encounter with Julian in the cave when he rescued her from a near death experience, but never before had her grandfather featured in her nightmares, at least not in this human form. His friendly smile disappeared and an intent look replaced it.
"I'm here to show you something that you probably don't want to see" the words left his lips slowly, "But Jenny, you must do this." Jenny swallowed and looked away from his face, noticing the 'penny arcade' sign light up dramatically as if it were waiting for the ideal moment to do so. Jenny's grandfather turned to look at the arcade then gestured to her to follow.
"But, you're no longer a prisoner in the Shadow World, why are you here?"
"It's a long story Jenny, and the fewer questions you ask, the quicker you can finish this nightmare."
Jenny pursed her lips and they started towards the arcade. The arcade machines were all fighting to be heard, blasting fairground music from all directions. The pair stood in the doorway, watching the hellish scene inside. The black cabinet that once possessed Slug and P.C.s severed heads was empty, yet still shone an eerie blue light onto surrounding machines, and the grandfather clock with the mirror inside wildly threw its doors open and shut in a frenzied movement. Jenny pressed her palms to her ears and squeezed her eyelids shut in a desperate attempt to block out the sound. She wished the silence was back, sound was too painful to think in. The noise was muffled by her hands, and a few more minutes passed before she felt a supporting hand on her shoulder. As her grandfather did so, the noise disappeared, and each machine in turn switched off it lights, starting from the ones either side of the arcade room nearest to them, to the fortune telling box on the far side of the room, which was lit up by a single overhead light directly above it. Jenny hadn't noticed before that the box was covered by a dirty white cloth, and its exclusivity sent chills through her body.
"Bet you feel weird seeing that again grandfather" Jenny chuckled under her breath awkwardly, loud enough for him to hear.
"Not as weird as it will be for you" Jenny watched him outstretch a closed fist to her, and reveal a single penny resting in the palm of his hand. It looked impossibly old, and shone a wonderful copper colour in the dim light.
"Take it Jenny; you have to do this without me." She looked up into his solemn eyes, each muscle in her body tensing as she took the penny from him. It was cool against her fingers, and gripping it tightly, she made her way towards the machine with a hint of hesitation.
The box was even shabbier looking than before, and the words 'read prediction here' on the plastic tape were visibly deteriorating. The glass was dark, too dark to see without turning on the machine and largely covered by the cloth. The overhead light was too dim to be of any use. She stopped an inch away from it, contemplating the horrid things that may await her from within the glass; a deformed monster snarling with saliva dripping from its razor teeth, or an elder shadowman with scaly skin and piercing eyes that looked into your very soul. Whatever lurked in that darkness, Jenny already knew she didn't want to know. I'm here to show you something you probably don't want to see, but you must do this her grandfather had told her. She wondered if the word probably should be comforting, but the chances were slim. Jenny closed the gap between her and the box watching it come to life. Two light bulbs shone within it, and its contents were exposed to the world. With another brave movement, Jenny grabbed the nearest corner of the cloth and flung it to the floor, gasping as the figure was revealed.
Once, what seemed like long ago, she had become hysterical over an old, tired-looking sorcerer that was transformed into a plastic wizard, the cruel inside joke of the Shadowmen, but this time they hadn't even bothered with humour. The wizard was completely gone, no wand or beard. In its place was a boy who looked her age, with beautiful azure eyes and frosty white hair moulded into a familiar style; cropped at the back and long at the front. He wore a black vest top, its design a mixture of cyberpunk and Byronic poet. In the place of a wand, he held a piece of plastic that seemed to resemble a wooden Runestave, something she distinctly remembered from her last encounter with the Shadowmen. Worst of all, he wore an expression she had only seen him wear once before, in the confinements of a fire-lit cave, one of pain and loss. The prediction card slipped out, and in a state of disorientated shock, she reached for it.
HELP ME JENNY
That did it. The last of whatever composure she'd had disappeared and she fell to her knees, her scream caught in her throat. It can't be, It can't be, Jenny repeated in her head, it didn't seem possible, it didn't feel right. The Shadowmen wouldn't do this, would they? But they would. They were evil and capricious and deadly. She'd seen their wrath, come face to face with the repulsive remains of their victims, and knew deep down in the core of her heart, they were enjoying this. The figure was completely motionless in the box. It didn't move like her grandfather did when he was their plaything. It just looked at her, pleading with sad, blue painted eyes, so sad that Jenny couldn't bear to look away for one second. A single pain-filled tear fell from her eye, and she reached a hand to the glass in front of her.
"Oh Julian," She whispered, "What have they done to you?"