And, when it was time to continue our march inland, it was October.

On the eighth day, I arrived in an empty parking lot, emerging from the line of trees into the sterile, pearly night-time light beamed down from the overheads, still powered-up, along the southern border of the sprawl.

We were fewer, then, standing several dozen yards from one another if not more, each of us bearing the same, lame model of a homely old rifle.

The parking lot was massive; Other than myself, I could just barely see John in the haze, down on the other edge, matching my pace and looking up at the washed-out sky.

Ahead of myself, I saw what was once a starchy ticket-booth, preserved, and faintly yellowing as a cadaver in formaldehyde.

Approaching it, I could see that it led into an amusement park; I called out to John, on my right, telling him to hold up for a bit.

The park, beyond this parking lot, wasn’t very well lit; I shined my flashlight through the booth’s central corridor, watching it taper off, uneventfully, into the darkness.

John called back to me, told me to check it out– His path seemed to lead back into the woods; he’d wait for me to track through the park.

I began my creeping tread from there.

The passageway smelled like mildew and brackish water– I lost sight of John as soon as I stepped in.

Avoiding the mossy puddles upon the concrete, I continued westward, slowly, and a bit scared.

I tracked my eye’s jittery movements with the pale flashlight, following the creaking all around me wherever I heard it.

It was a small park, it seemed– Narrow enough, such that each attraction fit along the same pathway upon which I walked.

Around me, I saw pipes, and tubes, and slides, and fences; yes, this appeared to me as a former water park, still standing, often leaking.

I continued down the battered road to its end, at which I saw before myself a wooden staircase, a bit cleaner than its surroundings, leading up to a wooden platform of some height.

Tall, mangled fences beset me on both sides.

I began up the staircase, hearing its every creak ease out as I shifted my weight from foot to foot with my ascent.

The moldy smells fell away the higher I got, being replaced with the airy smell of a fog from the old days, the way it smelled early in the morning.

After a while I reached the top.

This platform, red and wooden, overlooked the entire park; I turned around to the east to see the lot, still flushed by the floodlights, smaller than I expected.

This water park was built atop a hill, at its crest, with the dying trees sweeping into its waking valley behind.

I saw a shining dot in the forest, to the north, aimed up towards the sky, whitening the fog.

To the west, the path forward was clear; a ladder here seemed to lead down into an old maintenance area of sorts on the other side of the fence.

To the south, a faded green mouth opened before me– a water-slide, its paint cracking from, maybe, sun exposure.