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What Goes Up, Must Come Down
Molly, Age 12, Purcellville, VA

“I want to go back,” I whined, panic rising in my voice. “I can’t go on that!” My heart leaping out of my chest, I attempted to weave through the line of people waiting for the Apollo’s Chariot roller coaster at Busch Gardens. Suddenly, Maeven’s arm shot out, gripping my arm and gently attempting to tug me back into my place in the long and perilous line.

“You can do this,” she encouraged, patting the top of my head, emphasizing the fact that all of my friends were taller than me. They didn’t have any reason to be scared.

“I’ll sit next to you,” my other best friend, Taylor, soothingly promised.

“It’ll be fun, I promise!” Morgan added. I let them give my arm a last yank to fully pull me back to my position in the line. The waiting was killing me. Not only was I doing something life-threatening, but I was being forced to wait for it too. I began tapping my feet anxiously, crossing my arms, and twirling my hair. "What is that taste?" I thought, grimacing. I touched my finger to my mouth. Blood. I had been biting my lip. Why had I agreed to this? My thoughts were instantly filled with bad things happening, worst case scenarios being whispered in my ear, each one worse than the last. The car suddenly losing all power and going down the track backwards. The seat belts unlatching, causing everyone to go flying. The track falling apart beneath us. The earth exploding at the very top of the hill, sending everyone flying into space, still wearing their ride harnesses.

“How many?” the ride worker asked in a monotone, obviously bored with his job of sending people to their certain deaths.

“Six,” Summer replied eagerly, sealing my fate with a single syllable.

“Rows seven and eight. Next?” he said, quickly moving on to the next people in line without a second glance.

“ Fine, send me to my death,” I muttered, my teeth chattering from fright. “But there is no way I am sitting on the end.” After filing into our seats, buckling our seat belts, and pulling down the harnesses, we waited nervously (at least, I did) for the ride to start. I began sweating, my heart jumping out of my chest, butterflies dancing throughout my stomach. “Wait. Go without me. I c-can’t--” I started struggling against my seat belt, yanking at the harness, doing anything to get the heck out of there. I couldn’t believe I let them do this to me! Weren’t they my friends? My struggles were suddenly interrupted by the jolts of our seats as the ride started to climb the treacherous metal track that was slanted at a possibly dangerous angle.

“Molly, chillax. You can’t get off now,” Summer offered unhelpful encouragement from the seat behind mine.

“I don’t want to die!” I shrieked, startling Taylor, who rolled her eyes from the seat on the edge next to me.

“Molly, if it was even possible for you to die on this ride, which it isn’t, they wouldn’t let you on because all of the people we just watched exiting the ride would be dead too.” Taylor’s rational view on the subject calmed me down a little, but I was still unable to cage the butterflies and other small, crawly insects still roaming around in my stomach. I clasped her hand and Maeven’s from the seat on the other side of me, leaving nail marks imprinted on the palms of their hands.

“Here we go!” squealed Maeven with excitement. We were almost at the end of our climb, inches from the top. I squeezed my eyes shut, held my breath, and prepared for the inevitable drop.

“Don’t let me look!” I screamed as we shot down the track. It felt we were breaking the sound barrier. My heart was in my throat, my head in the clouds. I was flying. Or had I already died and gone to heaven? A silly grin replaced the terror that had originally been on my face, a giggle replacing my horrified screech.

“I’m doing it!” I yelled with glee. Before long, I was screaming with my friends, removing my hands from their death grip around the safety bar, and letting the wind whip my hair around my face. Too soon, the ride ended and my friends and I were stumbling, dazed, toward the exit.

“See, that wasn’t so bad,” Morgan faced me. “Was it?” I knew my answer immediately. To show them, I turned them around, excitement in my eyes, preparing to fill the silence.

“Let’s do it again!” was my energetic assessment of the ride. I dashed back to the entrance, then jogged briskly back to the line, not even asking my friends’ permission. My friends all groaned, then shrugged and shuffled in behind me, weaving through the handrails, all the way back up to the ride. I wasn’t scared anymore. We rode that roller coaster again and again, each time more thrilling and stomach-churning than the last. Who knew that near death experiences could be so much fun?

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