Horror Stories - The Trestle: Installment Two
Harold was finally in a deep sleep by the time Chris was in his home telling his daughter about the snipe hunt they were going on. Shelly was in negative spirits at first, mostly because she had been thinking a lot lately about her absent mother. She wondered how her voice sounded, how her touch felt, and mostly, Shelly wondered if she would ever come back. Shelly’s hand went comfortingly to her necklace. Chris was oblivious to what Shelly was going through. He continued to press and try to convince her. Chris warmed her with his trouble-maker’s smile, and finally sealed the deal by accusing her of being a panty waist. Although Shelly was wearing a pair of panties at the time of the remark, she still took exception and informed Chris that he was on.
The two directed their bikes through marginally busy downtown Dugan, past the Dugan Country Club, and finally (thirty minutes later), down Grouse Creek Road. They followed the quarter mile road until they came to the end, where a small, beaten path slithered up into the woods beyond.
Chris dismounted his bike. Already he could hear Grouse Creek burbling and he felt his excitement rise at the idea that, just maybe, there was some mysterious toad-creature listening to the very same sound. On the way, he had explained more about the nature of the snipe to Shelly, using flourish and hand gestures almost identical to those that were used by his dad earlier that morning. Although she put on a convincing façade, she felt undeniable dread nipping at her. She did not fear the snipe, (probably another of Chris’ ideas created to make me seem like a wussy) but rather, she felt abhorrence simply from looking at the way that path twisted up into the woods. To her, it looked like an ugly scar made with a bent and rusted knife.
The two dismounted and stashed their bikes in some brush a short ways up the path. They walked side by side, Shelly slapping at the gnats and mosquitoes that seemed to be admiring the two of them, and Chris holding his paper bag with both hands, a look of intense fixation pinned to his face. After walking a twisting 70 yards or so, they came to Grouse Creek. The path squirmed right into the six-foot-wide creek, and then continued up a steep hill beyond it.
Chris’ fixation was broken at this sight.
“Weird.” He said almost silently.
“What is?” Shelly asked maintaining her façade as best a possible. “You spot a toad with three eyes and a rat tail?”
Chris admonished her with a frown.
“It’s just that paths normally follow alongside creeks don’t they?” Chris asked as he squatted on the path. “I mean, have you ever seen a path just run right through a creek?”
“I don’t know, Chris.”
“Well, I say we follow that path.” Chris said as he stood.
“I don’t wanna walk up that big hill Chris!” Shelly protested. “Why don’t we walk along the creek? Your dad says it lives in water, right?”
Chris began to get that transfixed look back on his face. He followed the strange path up the hill with his eyes. It eventually disappeared behind leaves and shrubbery, but Chris had the idea that it stretched out for a great distance beyond his ability to see.
“My dad said it lived in a big puddle that he came to by following a narrow path.” Chris said as he turned to face Shelly. “Doesn’t that look like a narrow path to you?”
Shelly could not think of a response. She didn’t know how to tell Chris that the path simply seemed wrong to her.
He grinned as soon as he saw that she had no negation for him, and began to cross the creek.
Chris helped Shelly out of the shallow creek and the two faced the path side-by-side. Now that they were on this side, Chris was beginning to feel some inexplicable unease of his own, but he hammered on in spite of it, maintaining his focused expression. Shelly’s exterior, however, now matched her interior. She was glad that Chris seemed so confident, and she fought the urge to hold his arm as they walked.
The two climbed the sloping path slowly. At one point, the path was dug at such a lunatic angle that Chris had to pull himself up with the root of an old tree, and then turn to help Shelly who had been walking gingerly as it was, and never could have made it up on her own. A short distance beyond this, the two began catching familiar scents.
“Do you smell that?” Chris asked in the voice of a little boy.
Shelly nodded. At this point, she felt uneasy beyond the ability to speak without her voice catching.
Chris looked at her curiously and then lifted his head slightly to take another sip of the fragrance which seemed to smother him. It’s Christmas, Chris thought blunderingly, That’s the smell of my house at Christmas time.
To be more precise, Chris smelled Peanut Butter Blossoms combined with Gingerbread. These were the two types of cookies that his mother made most frequently during the holidays. The scent made his mouth water, and he forgot about how arduous his climb was.
Shelly was sensing something entirely different. Her father always tried to avoid smoking around her, but almost every time he came home from a friend’s house, or from grocery shopping, she would smell that combination of cigarette smoke and his aftershave as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
I can smell daddy. She thought rapidly, and she witlessly began to scan the trees surrounding her, looking for him.
As much as she felt that panic would fit the current circumstances best, she couldn’t help but find comfort in the smell. After all, it was the fragrance of the only person she could honestly say that she loved. How could she ever find that smell dismaying?
The two discussed the subject no further. They simply continued to follow the path uphill, and smell their distinctive smells. In what had seemed only like few minutes to Shelly and Chris, they had already embedded themselves a mile and a half deep into the woods.
After walking in almost total silence for God only knows how long, Chris finally spoke.
“It’s about time!” he said so suddenly that it made Shelly jump. “Look!”
Shelly followed Chris’ finger to where the path disappeared about thirty feet further up. There, the hill flattened out to what looked like a long horizontal clearing. The smell was growing more pungent with every step they took, and Shelly was beginning to hate the smell that she had held so dear for so many years. She looked at her wrist to find that the morning had given to afternoon two hours earlier.
“We have been walking for almost three hours Chris!” Shelly exclaimed in a voice that shocked even her. “We reached the top of your hill, and we didn’t find any puddles along the way.” Frustration and fear were standing out on Shelly’s face, but she didn’t care anymore. “Let’s go home.”
Chris looked at her as if she was insane.
“Are you kidding me?” He asked incredulously. “We didn’t walk this thing for fun! We’re on a mission here, and I refuse to turn back without completing it!”
Shelly released her façade entirely.
“I thought this whole idea was about having fun!” She shrilled. “I stopped enjoying this adventure about two hours ago! If you want to go on Chris, you can do it alone!”
Chris was about to turn on her when he was struck with something that Shelly obviously hadn’t considered.
“Ok Shel,” He said bluntly. “You go ahead and turn back by yourself. Just holler if you fall and get hurt, and especially holler if you come across the snipe…or anything else.”
Shelly’s mouth pinched shut when Chris hit her with this. She pictured herself walking down the hill alone and shuttered. What if she did fall? What if something was watching her, waiting for her to fall so it could pounce on her and see what she tasted like.
Chris could almost see these thoughts as they passed through her head, and grinned to himself as he turned and continued toward the clearing. His smile broadened when he heard her clamoring up the hill behind him.
When they reached the top, Chris, always a perfect gentleman, turned and extended his hand to Shelly. She refused it, and bear-crawled to the top under her own strength. When she stood Chris gave her his most charming look and she presented him with her middle finger. The two laughed in spite of themselves and began to examine their surroundings.
Here, their small path faded and lead to a perpendicular path composed of old gravel that was mostly grow over with grass and weeds. They saw a few puddles but they were quite small and filled with crimson water. Shelly saw this and immediately thought of blood.
“Looks like we got beat to it Chris,” Shelly said mustering a smile. “Somebody came along and killed all the snipes.”
Chris bent to one puddle to inspect.
“I don’t think this is blood Shel.” Chris said as he stood. When he turned to her, he had something in his hand. It was an old, corroded railroad spike. “It’s rust. These used to be train tracks.”
Chris and Shelly were both struck with a strange feeling as they walked. It fell upon them after they had only taken their first few steps and it, just like their scents, grew stronger as they walked. Neither of them spoke of it, but each knew that the other was feeling the same sensation. It was as though they were watching a film reel that was moving more slowly than normal and was missing a few frames. They would take a few laborious paces and then feel like they moved another five steps without being aware of it. Still, they were compelled to press on, like dogs at the end of a leash, being dragged mindlessly by their masters. Chris dropped his paper bag without thought as he moved on.
They wandered on for time out of mind.
Shelly never thought to check her wristwatch, but by the time they reached the tunnel, it was 3:48 in the afternoon.
They both came to an abrupt halt when they saw the opening of the tunnel, standing mute and infallible in the middle of the path they had been following. The very sight of it made their knees buckle. It was at least thirty feet tall and wide, and some of the cement that once stood as the upper lip of this yawning mouth had fallen to rubble in front of the entrance. The moment they caught sight of it, their invisible leashes were snapped, their personal scents disappeared and realism came back into the world around them. They were left only with what seemed to be a clear-cut choice: Now that they were here, they needed either to press on or turn back.
Chris looked through the three-fourths mile length of the tunnel, and saw daylight on the other end. The middle of this shaft, however, was consumed in darkness.
He looked from the tunnel, to Shelly and back again before continuing on wordlessly. Shelly began to open her mouth to tell Chris to stop this foolishness when she remembered about the nameless thing she had created earlier. The thing that watches her from behind trees and high grass, waiting for her to be alone. Waiting for her to be hurt. Waiting for her to be ripe with fear.
She knew that Chris would continue on without her if she put her foot down and said she wouldn’t follow along. She pictured this unclassified beast watching her as she waited outside the tunnel for him, circling closer to her, until finally it would reveal itself, pounce on her, and rip tissue from her bones. This thought only suited to propel Shelly on, speed walking so she could make it to Chris’ side.
Chris was beginning to scale the rubble in front of the open shaft when he turned and gave Shelly a bright smile.
“Thought for sure you were gonna just watch me go in there on my own!” Chris almost shouted, amplifying his voice through the tunnel in front of him.
Shelly thought better of asking him what he made of all the sensations they had been experiencing on the way over here. The disjointed walk they had just taken was odd enough, but let’s not forget the scents or the feeling of being pulled forward by some erratic force. However, if she were to mention any of these things, Chris would tell her she was being a baby, that it was nothing. Perhaps even worse, he would say he didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Nope,” Shelly responded meekly. “I’m not gonna let you have all the fun.”
Chris extended his hand to her, and this time she took it, allowing him to pull her up onto an old cement slab. A few more handy maneuvers and they were down the other side of the rubble and standing just within the mouth of this now useless fiend. They could now see the floor within the tunnel and it was made of more gravel with interspersed puddles throughout. Through the length of the tunnel, at least as far as they could see, there was one long puddle laying against the wall on the right side. Both of them wondered briefly if perhaps this was where the snipes dwelt, but each dismissed the idea. It seemed now that their agendas for the afternoon had undergone some changes. Chris’ agenda now consisted of finding out what exactly lay on the other side of the tunnel and perhaps, what lay within. He had found a nightmare suitable for his needs. He was in a dark, damp canal of cement that had obviously been out of use for some time. He would let his vivid imagination fill in the rest. Shelly’s new agenda was quite different. She wanted only to prove herself to Chris by being adventurous with him, and to return home to her bed safely where she could imagine her nightmares from a much more controlled environment.
Shelly gave in and laid hold of Chris’ arm as they began to walk. It hardly seemed to matter anymore. She was absolutely horrified and Chris was so wrapped up in his imagination that he barely took any notice. They walked on, avoiding puddles as best they could, slowly approaching the darkness in the middle of the tunnel. Their shoes squeaked with the wetness as they stared at the light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed that the light was getting no closer to them, even after they had passed through the first third mile of it. Though the light was now becoming quite dim, Shelly could still see the old brickwork that surrounded her. Brickwork that was laid down by men who were now long dead and decomposed.
“Hello!” Chris shouted so abruptly that a scream broke through Shelly’s lips.
Both her scream and Chris’ jovial shout rippled through the tunnel, seeming to make the tunnel itself scream in surprise as it burst into life. Shelly took a weak jab at Chris for having given her such a stir. She knew that between holding his arm, and screaming in fear, she was going to be eating some humble pie when (if) they returned home.
“C’mon Kitch!” Chris boomed with a sarcastic look rising to his face.
Shelly shushed him with her index finger pressed to her lips. It seemed to her that shouting in a place such as this was just wrong, like shouting in a church or in a graveyard. The second of those two thoughts froze her in a quiet chill. She imagined shouting in a brooding mausoleum at night. She imagined that a shout in these kinds of circumstances, if echoed loud enough, could possibly wake the dead.
Chris gave her an annoyed shrug before turning back toward the darkness at the center of the tunnel. The two walked side by side, in silence externally, but boiling over with thought internally. They were now less that fifty yards from the utter darkness in the center of the tunnel and Chris began to get the first faint tingling fear that he had felt all day. It seemed to creep out of the gravel, coil around his thighs and over his ass, up his back and to his throat where in tightened its grip like a Boa constrictor and threatened to cut off his air supply. As the darkness began to enfold them he felt Shelly’s grip on his arm tighten along with the fear now wrapped around his neck. He could not help but think of the scene from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when Gene Wilder is taking his guests through his tunnel on an acid trip boat ride.
“Not a speck of light is showing/ So the danger must be growing/ Are the fires of hell a-glowing?/ Is the grisly reaper mowing?/ Yes! The danger must be growing.”
Chris tried to push that chilly voice to the back of his mind, but it persisted as they were immersed in shadow.
Shelly considered the flip side of the coin she had been inspecting earlier as she walked, placing her own little vice on Chris’ arm. Perhaps in places such as mausoleums, churches and horrific tunnels, no noise was just as bad as too much noise.
Something is waiting to fill in the empty space, Shelly thought. Something like a scream or a low growl.
She suddenly understood the idea of whistling past a graveyard. One wanted to fill that empty air space before a more skin-crawling noise did. This idea overwhelmed her so much that tears began to sting her eyes. She felt stuck, wanting to perhaps hum a tune, but not daring to because she was afraid maybe something further down the tunnel would start humming along with her. She listened to the sound of the gravel moving below her feet, and the sound of some far-off water dripping eternally, and she waited for the vacant air to be filled. Shelly felt pushed nearly to the edge of mania, when suddenly the dusk began to lift from them. The end of the tunnel didn’t seem so far ahead now and she could even see some of the trees lining the path beyond. She focused on them, feeling better with each step.
Chris let go of a silent breath himself. All the way through the darkness, he’d considered all of the horror fiction he had been ingesting over the past few months. He began to picture all sorts of varieties of demons stalking behind the two of them, synchronizing steps with them so they could go unnoticed until the moment when a claw would grip Chris’ shoulder. It took every ounce of will in his body for him not to tighten his arms around Shelly. He managed to gain some semblance of control over himself by reminding himself that this was what he had been waiting for.
You’ve walked all this way to find something to give you back your nightmares, and now that you’re here, you’re gonna act like a girl? He thought furiously. Get it together Duncan.
Still, the fear that had wrapped itself around his throat refused to loosen its grip until he came out of the darkness at the center of the tunnel. Only then did he begin to feel that eagerness expand his lungs again. He did want to see what was on the other side of the tunnel, and he did want to give himself a little scare while he was at it.
Sunlight dazed them as they emerged from the tunnel. Shelly’s tightened arms finally loosened so that she could rub at her eyes while Chris squinted and shaded his face. The two were filthy with the sweat and dirt that they had collected over the course of the days activities. Chris thought they must look like they had just returned from the Mines of Moria after having bested J.R.R. Tolkien’s Balrog in their quest to destroy the one true ring. He considered mentioning this thought to Shelly, but sincerely doubted if she had read The Lord of the Rings.
Chris and Shelly stopped briefly to study their surroundings. Odd here Shelly thought looking at the trees around them. Seems almost tinted, like an old photograph. Chris didn’t share the feelings with Shelly. Any odd sensations he felt as he looked around, he associated with coming out of a dark tunnel into brilliant sunlight. Finally, the two pressed forward again.
In front of them lay another rusted puddle, this one stretching all the way across their path. The two skirted around it, but not before Shelly splashed a rock into it to see if anything would come leaping out. Nothing happened, but Shelly glanced at Chris to see if perhaps he cared to weigh in. If he even noticed that she had thrown a rock, he gave no indication. He had been thinking more about the Fellowship’s exciting escape from the Balrog, (All but Gandolf, he thought) when suddenly he lifted his gaze to see what their path led to next. It was an enormous trestle stretching over a remote river.
The trestle reached over the river for a distance comparable to that of the tunnel they had just breached. Chris stopped in his tracks and stared.
Shelly noticed him not noticing her and looked ahead also to see what was so damn interesting. When she locked in on it, she too dropped all other thoughts. At first glance, she thought that it spanned into a vanishing point. After a few eye blinks, she recognized that it was more like half a mile, but still, the sight of this trestle, which she had never even heard of, intimidated her even from the safety of the ground she stood on fifty or so feet away from it.
Chris put an end to the stillness. He began with one tentative foot forward, and the broke into smooth rhythmic steps, feeling his confidence find its way back into his limbs, into his chest, and most importantly, into his mind. My nightmare is here, he thought. This is it, and I’m running toward it… not away. I will not shake my head awake.
“Chris,” Shelly heard herself say as she tried to wrap her mind around everything. “Chris…I can’t. I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” Hot tears brimmed in her eyes again as she pushed against her shame.
Chris looked at her and, much to her bewilderment, he offered her an understanding nod.
“Okay, Shelly.” He said calmly. “I just wanna see where the other side goes. Stay here, and after I get a look I’ll come right back.” He gave her a look as if he was waiting for her approval before giving her a weak grin and turning back toward his new task.
Shelly had fully expected another one of Chris Duncan’s endless ultimatums, so when he had treated her with understanding, (Finally treated me like a girl! she thought), her heart swelled for him in a fashion similar to the way that it had swelled for her father’s smile earlier that morning. For the first time since she had developed her crush on him, she felt that Chris might actually like her in return.
Chris was three steps from the structure when he heard the familiar sound of Shelly’s pink converse shoes kicking through the gravel in his direction. This time when he turned to her, a look of genuine surprise replaced what would typically be smarmy smirk.
She reached his side and the two stood before the trestle with incredulity sparkling in their eyes.
“What’s on the other side Chris?”
“There’s only one way to find out.”
Chris had unplanted a foot and taken a step toward the first timber beam before Shelly seized his hand in hers. He looked at her with a combination of awe and embarrassment.
“My head gets a little woozy when I’m high up. I think holding hands will help.”
Chris offered no complaint.
Now that they stood on the structure, they were beginning to realize just how high up it was. Chris gazed toward the middle of the trestle all the way down to where its supports touched the water. He guessed that the trestle had to be one thousand feet above the river while Shelly, who risked only a quick glance, felt they were double that distance from the flowing water below. She tried to push the thought away and simply focus on each beam that she stepped on. She discovered that it was impossible to think of anything besides falling off.
I would have enough time to give my death some serious thought while fell. She mused incessantly.
In all actuality, they were only four-hundred feet high; still enough to kill, but not enough to completely obliterate.
Chris looked through the openings between the wooden beams and saw a rusted metal support system below. The sight did not instill confidence in him, and he felt his balance waver slightly. He gripped Shelly’s hand and allowed himself to regain composure. He looked at her and was thankful that she was looking so overwhelmed.
Good, he thought. She probably didn’t even notice that little hand squeeze.
She had noticed, and she adored him for it. Chris was becoming more human by the second and she was feeling like more than just a tomboy who lived by the cemetery four blocks away. She was beginning to wonder if this feeling was what it was like to have a boyfriend. These pleasant thoughts endured for only a few seconds before she reminded herself that she was on an old trestle only a few feet from the edge, over which she would fall and scream and fall.
The two walked over each beam, seeming almost to tiptoe across the trestle like one tends to creep silently through a library. Both of them were too focused on their task to realize that they were doing this because their surroundings were not unlike a library. No wind whistled their ears, no birds chirped gaily, and no sound was omitted from the river below them. In fact, there was total silence other than the faint sound of their feet lightly touching each beam. In their focus, they also failed to notice the strange phenomenon that was taking place below them:
As they walked, the river’s pace quickened.
By the time they reached the other side of the trestle, the current below them was moving at a speed that was well beyond reason. Neither of them had noticed it. At one point, however, when they were at around the halfway point, Shelly had tried to tell Chris that she was concerned she would miss her dinner. When she spoke, it was as if someone had turned down the volume on her voice. She tried saying it a little louder, but still, she produced the same, muted sound. She decided to keep the thought to herself. For reasons that she didn’t even think to examine, it seemed normal to her that her voice was so sparse in the air surrounding her. It seemed commonplace.
The moment they set foot on the gravel on the other side of the trestle, sound filled the air again. This transition was so smooth that neither of them even took notice. Behind them, however, the river still rushed in silence.
The two unlocked their sweaty hands and wiped them on their shirts as they inspected the path before them. The gravel shortly turned into overgrown grass flanked by trees on either side. The path turned a corner into the trees and disappeared from their perspective. Just looking at the path disappear behind the thick tree line alongside it made Chris itch with the desire to see what was around that corner.
“Just around the bend Shelly.” He said as he extended his feelers to probe her emotions. “I just wanna have a look, and then we can turn back. Deal?”
Shelly was charmed. In all the time she had known Chris, he had never bothered to ask her if anything was a “deal”.
“Deal,” she said through her smile. “But we do need to make it fast, Chris.”
“Sure, sure.” He said as he started forward eagerly.
Shelly followed with equal enthusiasm. This whole thing was appealing to her more and more. She felt like she was really part of the adventure rather than being Chris’ lost dog which simply follows him on his romps.
The two tromped through the thick grass and when they rounded the corner, Chris’ eyes widened with excitement while Shelly’s widened with aversion and fear.
Standing before them was a second tunnel.
In some trick of light, the mouth of the tunnel was lit only until about four feet in. After that, there was only the pitch blackness that they found in the middle of the first tunnel. They peered through to the end where they did not see daylight, but rather, only a tarnished, yellow glow which appeared to reflect off of the ground inside.
“We can’t walk through there Chris,” Shelly protested rapidly. “It’s flooded. We don’t know how deep it is or anything!”
“Looks like the water doesn’t start until near the middle of it.” Chris obviously guessed. “We’ll just walk until our feet splash water and then we’ll turn back. Alright?”
Shelly furrowed her eyebrows as she considered Chris’ offer. Silently, she reached for his hand again and he took it casually.
Shelly felt like an inmate being led down death row to the electric chair. Chris walked like a man completing a duty. The grass around their feet gave way to gravel again which led into the tunnel. Shelly squeezed Chris’ hand hard enough to make it hurt as she braced herself to be enveloped in shadow.
They were only two feet away from walking into the black wall when suddenly, only ten feet away, a pair of eyes blinked open, reflecting the sun that shone in from behind them. The eyes were two white clouded marbles and they shifted between Chris and Shelly restlessly. Shelly gave an almost inaudible squeak as the two stopped abruptly to inspect what was before them. The eyes stood only about a foot from the tunnel floor.
A cat, Chris thought. It’s just a stray cat. Those are like my cat Louie’s eyes when they reflect from under the bed or in the dark laundry room.
Still, Chris’ pulse thudded in his ears.
Shelly was scared beyond the capacity for rational thought. She looked into those rapidly shifting eyes and felt like someone standing in the middle of a dream (A dream that you can’t wake up from).
The eyes stopped shifting and looked straight forward, beyond the two children. At a strolling pace, the eyes slowly began to grow closer. As they came closer, they also rose from the tunnel floor.
By the time the figure baring those eyes was only five feet from revealing itself in daylight, it’s eyes were at the same level as Chris’ and still rising. When it did reveal itself, it stood at the height of a full-grown man.
The two children stood as frozen as wax figures. Before them stood a six-foot tall porcelain doll with the green eyes of a cat. It had floated out of the darkness without moving its feet and stood just as still as the two of them, still gazing numbly forward. Its hair was in golden blonde curls and the blush on it’s white cheeks stood out like two pink flowers. Blue ribbon stood perfectly in its hair, polka dotted just like it’s neat, blue dress. Shelly looked slowly down past its white stockings and was horrified to see that the doll’s ankles seemed to be broken. Its black patent leather shoes were on backwards and were covered in thick green moss. Shelly raised her hand to her mouth when she saw centipedes crawling enthusiastically over the doll’s filthy shoes.
Chris stood transfixed by the cat’s eyes which seemed so full of life and yet now stood lifeless. As if in response to Chris’ thoughts, the two eyes shifted abruptly down at him. His mouth gaped and his stomach tightened at the suddenness of it. Just as quickly, the eyes darted toward Shelly. She was still looking at the things feet, but when she looked up and met its eyes, she discharged another faint squeak and took a bumbling step backward.
At once, the doll jerked its upper body in a twisted bow toward Chris, making it’s eyes meet his again. This time, Chris’ feet became unglued and he took a clumsy baby step backward as well. Its face was still only two feet from his.
Chris’ mouth worked silently as he searched his mind for some kind of purchase. Before he found it, the doll smiled toothily at him. As it did so, the porcelain of its lips, cheeks and chin cracked and bled. It exposed rotten teeth, caked with brown grime. The foulness of its breath stung Chris’ sinuses. Shelly tried another step backward, but her body was moving faster than her feet and she landed on her seat, scraping her hands on gravel as she pawed to get up. Chris opened his mouth to scream, but found that he could not. He simply couldn’t breathe deep enough to produce one.
“Child,” the doll burbled in the voice of a dead girl. “Wouldn’t you like to come into my forest?”
It quickly shifted its upper body toward Shelly and met her eyes again. The porcelain of its right thigh cracked, but still it’s legs remained still.
“Girly!” It shrieked joyfully. “Stand…come in!” It extended a gloved hand toward her. Shelly did not take it.
The doll’s eyes widened with madness.
“Ohh, I know the walk through is frightening,” it spoke slowly to her, “But you can take my hand and we can go through together. It will be well worth it when we reach my forest on the other side. I’ll show you my special tree.”
The doll tried a slow step forward. The crack in its thigh extended to its knee as it took a tiny shuffle-step. Its arm remained extended, reaching closer to Shelly. Her hands began to paw the gravel again when suddenly she realized that if she stood, she would likely lean right into the doll. Shelly stopped moving and submitted to panic.
Chris stood frozen in incoherent fear. He could not tear his eyes from the thing’s cracking leg. Redness was beginning to soak its white stocking and Chris watched it spread imprudently.
“That’s right, child,” the doll breathed dreamily. “Now just take my hand. Let me show you.”
Before Chris’ eyes, the leg slowly began to repair itself. The crack was filling in, like a scab busily weaving itself over a wound. He looked at the other leg and saw that its porcelain was beginning to turn into flexing muscle tissue. He finally looked to Shelly and saw her slowly beginning to raise her hand as tears streamed down her face. The maddened feline eyes of the doll stared eagerly at her.
Chris moved suddenly and without thought. He darted toward the doll, and just as it turned its attention to him, he stomped the side of it’s knee. A crack like a gunshot issued from the point of impact as the flesh-porcelain leg shattered and ripped. A torrent of dark blood gushed from what remained of the thing’s leg, some of it spattering on both Chris and Shelly. The doll wailed as it fell to the gravel, but the moment it hit, it began trying to stand itself back up on its remaining leg. Just as quickly as he had disabled the doll, he bolted to Shelly and pulled her to her feet. As soon as she was up, he began to drag her back down the path toward the trestle, moving as fast as his legs would carry him.
From behind them they heard the doll’s struggles on the gravel. Chris risked a look behind him and saw that the thing was now using its arms to lug itself after them. It’s eyes met his and it began to bellow laughter. It was dragging itself at a pace quicker than theirs.
Shelly looked back when she heard the thing’s laughter and she began to scream and babble. Chris tried to quicken their strides, but Shelly’s body was trying to shut itself down under the weight of the fear it was enduring. He just pulled harder and continued to deny the voice in his head that urged him to just give up. The grass at their feet seemed almost to cling to them, trying to slow them further. Chris just pushed himself harder in retaliation.
By the time their feet were touching the gravel just off of the trestle, they could clearly hear the thing’s breathing behind them. Neither of them dared to look back, fearing that to do so would idle their feet. Chris felt something clip his heel and knew immediately that it was the creature’s white-gloved hand. He let go a tiny scream but continued on without breaking speed. They were mere feet from the trestle when Shelly felt something yank at her collar. Pain blossomed briefly on her throat, but the pressure was shortly assuaged. They stepped onto the trestle and heard the clamoring behind them cease immediately. They continued over the beams, maintaining their running pace.
They were nearly back at the halfway point of the bridge when they simply could not run any longer. The two of them stopped with their hands on their thighs and breathed heavily and soundlessly into the trestles strange air. They could feel that the doll-thing was no longer giving chase. They had not only heard it stop, but they had felt it stop. If asked why, neither of them could have explained. They just knew.
When they heard it speak moments later, however, it sounded like it was only feet away. Its voice did not carry the same muted quality as the air that engulfed them. Both of them jumped and jerked their heads toward the sound.
It was sitting at the end of the tunnel with its one remaining leg underneath it like a cushion. The broken stump where it’s other leg used to be looked to be healing rapidly, rebuilding itself. It had one arm extended toward them with the fist closed.
“Look,” it had said to make them turn. “My newest treasure.”
It opened its balled fist, and out trickled Shelly’s necklace. The ring her father had bought for her mother swung lazily back and forth on the chain. The doll-thing saw Shelly’s expression drop and dispatched a girlish giggle.
“I think I’ll hang this on a branch of my special tree.” It mused. “It shall make a beautiful addition.” It gazed at Shelly happily. “Unless, of course, you would like to have it back, my dear.”
Shelly’s body tensed forward but stopped itself. Chris grabbed her wrist and squeezed, preparing himself to yank her back toward him in case she should decide to start toward the creature.
The doll-thing giggled again.
“Perhaps another time, then.” It said casually as it let the necklace fall to the crook of its elbow. It reached up to its white face with both hands and ripped the eyes from it’s head. They could clearly hear its optic nerves rending as it yanked each eye free. Chris heard Shelly’s muffled gag and vomit, but the sound seemed to come from miles away. He could not turn away from the evil sitting at the end of the trestle. It he held its bloodied green eyes out toward the two children and continued to smile while it’s gored sockets spouted blood. “Do you recognize me yet?” It gurgled.
It sat at the end of the trestle while they struggled back to the other end. Its faint giggling followed them until they stepped off of the wooded path and onto Grouse Creek Road at 8:40p.m.