Aliens, ghosts, and deep space
Face your fears
When I first went to Disney World, I spent a large chunk of it with my eyes shut.
The happiest place on Earth was terrifying for eight-year-old me. I remember panicking and praying in an alien-themed simulation when the lights cut out because I thought a real live alien had gotten loose and was going to murder me. On the Haunted Mansion ride, I buried my face in my mom’s shoulder while my older sister, excited by the supernatural ambience, narrated when ghosts popped up in mirrors or next to me.
And then there was Space Mountain. As we approached the looming, star-spangled sign, my mom recounted how, a decade and change ago, she couldn’t see anything as she blasted through the void at hyperlight speed.
I clung to her outside the gates while my dad and sister, the adventurous duo, skipped over to the fast lane.
Many years later, I went to Disneyland for a team outing. The opportunity to ride Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain presented themselves again (side note: the alien ride had been canceled over at Disney World due to complaints about it being too scary for little kids, and I felt VALIDATED). I thought it might be time to face my childhood fears.
Haunted Mansion was no biggie. The apparitions were charming and campy, and I had long since outgrown my fear of friendly ghosts. But I still had my reservations about Space Mountain. I’d ridden rollercoasters, but never ones I couldn’t see. When I couldn’t see, I’d imagine instead. A curious alien lifeform became a bloodthirsty monster specifically out for me. Friendly ghosts became malevolent spirits. And the extraordinary expanse of space became a cold, hungry, unending abyss.
But I was an adult now, and curiosity won over caution. I went into the line with my teammates, and soon afterward, buckled in for the ride. We bulleted into the darkness.
The whole ride I could not stop laughing. We whizzed in every direction like a chaotic band of shooting stars, destined for delight. Near the end there was a brilliant flash of light in the darkness as we made our descent, and then the ride was over as quickly as it began.
Space Mountain was my favorite part of the entire trip, and a reminder that our imaginations are brilliant things that often make reality out to be far more daunting than it actually is.
The only way to know for sure is to open our eyes and buckle in for the ride.