Plastic Yarn

It was the grand opening of Metro Cities Central Play Scape. Pioneered as the first ‘town’ sized indoor play scape. Drop your kids off, go shopping for hours and comeback to retrieve them. Your bags would be full, they would be exhausted and ready for a nap. It was the perfect combination. Out side in the ‘courtyard’ an array of booths and tables sat for parents and children to get ready for their time in the mall. There was a food court that was placed just beyond this seating area in the theme of outdoor foodstalls. The whole mall was themed in bubbly late 1990’s retro style. Blue, red, dark purples and neon swirled with lighting bolts around walls and through signs. Blocky text and clipart style images stamped there way on store signs. The entrance to the play scape looked like a mash of different tall buildings, their brick sides filled with large windows that looked out among the courtyard and mall.

“Gosh look at this place, it’s massive” He said taking a bite of a ham sandwich and then a sip of soda.

“Honey, you have been saying that ever since we got here” his wife giggled taking a glance over all the children and their parents sitting at the food court. There was a high level of excitement as parents finished meals and ushered their kids to the play scape. Waving to each other and bidding themselves a temporary release from control.

Isaac followed his wifes gaze to the families then back at her. She was stunning as always. Dressed in form fitting beige dress with a cream colored turtle neck and a darker cream stylish trench coat. Upon her left side of her coat hung a security badge from her work. Her natural face looked as it radiated a perfection that a man could only dream up. Her eyes a soft green, but with razer focus. Her brownish blond hair spilling in light curls down to her mid back and shoulders. He stared mesmerized. Always the thought of “How did a low bit scientist like me end up with a super star like her” Her eyes shifted and met his. Even though they had been married for eight years and had a daughter he still turned red and broke their gaze.

She smiled teasingly and leaned forward. “And what were you looking at mister?”

“Just an exceptional person” he spied some people looking their way and making notes of them.

Ada smiled and the whole room lit up. “Your to much. Why don’t you go get Julia and check out the observatory at the top of the mall. The sight is far out.”

“You want me to go in there?” Isaac pointed towards the bright colored steps that led into the play scape “Isn’t that illegal?”

“No, it’s fine. The inside is heavily surveillanced. Since it is so big, the security measures taken allows for adults to enter and find their children and bring them out. Unless they have a cell phone. There are also those” She pointed toward a row of funny looking pay phones. “If you use the ID that was given before entering, you can call a phone close to your child to tell them to come out.”

“Boy, you guys thought of everything. Why don’t I just use one of those then?”

“Isaac, don’t you think it would be fun to go check out the inside? You are always wanting to relax and experience some, let’s say childish activities. I think it would be funny for Julia to see her dad in such a setting. and” Ada pulled out a badge from her pocket and gave a sheepish grin “I forgot to register Julia when we got here”

Isaac took the badge from his wife and turned it over in his hand. It was digital screen wrapped in thick yellow plastic, as if a crayon had been melted around it. “Seems like an oversight, I guess it was a big day for you” He put the badge in his pocket and returned his gaze towards Ada. Her eyes looked past him at the play scape. Focused with curiosity he had seen before. “Looks like you want to head in there more then me”

“I have had my fill, your turn” she quickly commented and ushered him towards the childish courtyard.

He went to take off his shoes, but Ada stopped him. “You can leave them on, self cleaning, no worries about scuffs and marks”

“Boy, this stuff is pretty amazing, how did yo-“

“We will talk about it later, go go go” Ada playfully pushed him towards one of the large entrances. There were three entrances. Three large tubes jettisoned out form the building. Blue on the left, yellow in the middle and green on the right. Small steps surrounded the entrances and provided a small stoop. Issac stepped up into the yellow tube. He could feel Ada’s arms wrap around his waist, she turned him, gave him a kiss, whispering in his ear “have fun” and then stepped back for him to move into the tunnel. He gave a small smile and wave then descended.

The inside was filled with twists and turns. The yellow tube turned into a tunnel then shot in a multiple different directions. He had experienced play scapes in fast food places when he was a kid. Back when you were that small they always seemed so large, infinite, a whole other world to explore and be in. When you grow up, you see how small it actually is, how simplistic, and hallow. He wrapped a corner and a squad of children scurried past his legs and in the other direction. He wondered how they must feel in this place. He felt small. His adult senses being deceived and distorted by the large and small entrances, winding tubes going in all directions and spars plastic bubble windows. He kept moving, his eyes spying children here and there, but he had yet to see Julia. He stepped through a square door and set of long steps descended.

He ducked down them and he entered large open room.

“This place is massive” he stared wide eyed into a void of tunnels, plastic and odd shapes that moved into the ceiling creating a ball of brightly colored poly yarn. The brick building facade broke some of the visual language and seemed to give everything a balance, holding it up. He didn’t see any children in this large room, but he could hear the laughter and screams all around him.

“Julia” he called into the void. He walked across the opening. It was styled like a small park. Fake trees, with park benches, picnic tables were strewn around a padded side walk that slinked across turf like grass. Street lamps that came out of the ground and swirled before ending in a hanging bulb in the shape of a sun flower gave yellowish hue as if it was night time inside.

“Julia” he called again and he heard someone call back to him “The courtyard, I am in the courtyard.” He heard small feet rummaging against the poly surface. A small girl turned a corner and stopped in an odd shaped doorway. She looked just like her mother. Big green eyes. Blond brownish hair pulled into a pig tails.

“Daddy, what are you doing here” her face lit up in a huge smile as she hopped into the opening and crashed against his waist with a huge hug.

“Mommy forgot to give you this “he pulled out the badge from his pocket. As soon as it came into sight, the screen lit up. A picture of Julia appeared and listed her name, weight, height and both her parents name. Julia padded her oversized hoodie and then peeked inside of it.

“No, mommy gave it to me before I came in. Where did you find it? I thought i had lost it. I was looking for it here and there, I needed to find it or Mommy would be upset at me” she grabbed it out of his hand and attached it to a lanyard that was already around her neck.

A pay phone range near one of the walls. He had noticed that depending where you were the pay phones look different. Inside the play scape they were heavily stylized, while this one looked almost normal, only with a slight cartoony feel to it. He picked it up and held it to his ear.

“I see you found her, what do you think of the place?” Ada’s sweet voice swam into his ears. He peered at his watch. It had stopped.

“This place is wild. I am pretty sure I am lost. How long have I been in here?”

There was a long silence.

“Only around twenty minutes or so. Alright, I trust you can find your way out. I have to meet with the director so I will meet you later at the observatory. Let me speak to Julia” Isaac handed the handset to Julia and took out a small pocket notebook out his coat. He wrote down the time he had on his watch and the last time he had seen before entering.

“Mommy I found my badge! I thought I had lost it, but Daddy found it for me” Julia giggled and twirled back and forth “No. No. I promise. Yup! Love you too, bye bye!”

“Wai-“ Julia hung up the phone. He pulled it from the receiver. Soft mall music played on the other side. “What did mommy have to say?”

Julia put her hand to her lips and made a twisting motion “It’s a secret, she will tell you when she sees you”

“Alright, let’s get out of here. Did you have fun?” Isaac took her hand and they moved towards where he had descended into the fake park. Julia nodded excitedly and recounted all her adventures. She had immediately ran as far as she could into the play scape. There in a section that looked like a medieval castle she met a few other kids who she played with. She said they explored a bunch of different areas of the play scape. A place with clouds, a never ending valley of green pastures, and a scary dark wooden themed area. Isaac grinned down at her vast imagination. These tubes could become anything with just a few dots of a theme here and there. They moved through tubes and tunnels. Up and down stairwells. Around swirled ramps and rows of slides.

Isaac stopped and look in front of him. They were in a large square room. The roof was a thick clear bubble that showed multicolored tubes running through fake clouds. To the front was a mural of the play scape turning into all its fantasy landscape. The right was a row of three slides and to his left was a set of small slides that he could see the bottom a couple of feet down.

He was lost. He had not encountered this room on his way to find Julia. He asked her if she knew which way to go, as a test. She whipped her head back and forth in a no and peered at the large slides and then shot a worried look to her dad. He gave a smile back for reassurance, but he started to doubt his direction. As the stood he also realized that something was missing.

It was dead silent. The symphony of children’s expressions had ceased a while ago. There was no laughter or cries of surprise. No sound of little feet stomping and running across hard polymer plastic. There was nothing, but their own squeaky steps and breath. They decided to head down the small slides. They slid down a couple of feet and entered another room that looked to be endless. Two blue plastic walls extended into shadow.


“Let’s try the big slides” Isaac ushered Julia back up the mini slides and to the row of large slides. He turned and looked and into the shadows before he followed her. He couldn’t see it, but he could sense it. Something stared back him from the shadows. He quickly climbed back up the mini slides.

“Alright” he gave Julia a smile and sat down on the edge of the middle slides “Wrap your hands around my neck and legs around my waist. Hold on tight” A pit was forming in his stomach as he recalled the shadows from the other path. What laid at the bottom of this slide? He inched him self forward and slowly crept down the slide using his hands to brace themselves against the plastic. It was working well, then his next hand placement hit plastic that had no friction. He jerked forward and he tried to catch himself on the roof of the slide, but everything felt as if it was covered in oil. They both barreled, spinning around and around the slide. Julia screamed and he grasped onto her arms that wrapped around him. They tumbled and spun until they both came crashing into a padded landing square. Isaac gasped for breath as he crawled off the squishy padding to a more stable surface. He looked up and saw the three large tubes.

The entrance.

“Look” He scooped Julia up into his arms and rested her on his hip. “We made it!”

“We’re the best!” She rose her right hand and he high fived it.

“Yeah, we’re the best” He exited the yellow tube just as he had entered. “we’re” he looked around “the best” he said again with a deflated sigh.

The food court was empty. There was not a single soul. No laughter, no conversations, and no Ada. He moved to the table where he had sat before and set Julia down.

“Where is everyone? Is it nap time?” Julia looked around.

“No, I don’t think so.” They both sat for a moment in silence. The mall music played in a slow reverbed style. It added a sense of endless dread. It was the only sound besides their own. He looked towards the food court.


Julia shook her head.

“Really? Not hungry?”

She shrugged with a small smile “Not one bit”

Isaac looked back towards the play scape. He wasn’t hungry either. Not one bit.

I am really into the whole 90’s liminal horror, mallscape stuff. To me malls were this magical place where everyone went and there was alway something going on. They were full of people and stores, themed out for the holidays and special events. But, as we know. Time moves and those malls and areas lose some luster, get a bit abandoned and all of a sudden, lose their soul. I had recently watched Lost Dreams in Neon Springs by Lost in the Hyperverse which made me want to write something in a mall setting that got a bit more surreal. I have also always wanted to do a story with a giant play scape in it. I would always be hanging out in those as a kid and they hold a special place in my mind. For either good or bad. I described how I feel about them in this story pretty well, so I won’t repeat.

The story of Isaac and Julia will be continued in the future. I really want to explore more of the father - daughter dynamic. I feel that in a horror setting you could really make an interesting story out of it that isn’t just pure shock and awe. Something with a more heartfelt side to it. They have many more places to explore and horrors to encounter.

So I bid you farwell till our next story. Stay safe out there and careful what places you wander.

Cheers ~