Clouds drifted before the full moon. Shadows danced along the ground flanking the abandoned railroad tracks. Tall, spindly ragweed grew among the stones and waved in the damp breeze then stiffened as if listening to the growing grumble of a small engine. Not many people came to this isolated and deserted stretch of train tracks, but when they did the purpose was usually the same. The air thickened with anticipation.
The scent of tar and must hung in the air and rushed over Davey's face and through his thick black hair as he sped toward the old bridge on his motor bike. He cut the engine and coasted the bike to a stop beside a cluster of gnarled chokecherry bushes growing along the edge of the murky, motionless creek. He swatted tears from his eyes and gazed into the distance. The water faintly reflected the moon as a puddle of shivering white light but was ominous in its depth.
After dropping his bike to the soft, moss-covered ground near the edge of the water, Davey stomped up the steep hill to the rotting bridge and stepped onto the first railroad tie. The six-inch spaces between the ties were open to the dark water ten feet below. Davey didn't look down. He stepped carefully ahead until he was in the center of the long bridge.
Facing north and looking out over the side of the narrow bridge, he sucked in a deep breath and tried to block his father's angry voice from his thoughts. In his fifteen years, he'd witnessed the horrible wrath of his father's rages more times than he could remember. He was weary of being the punching bag. The report card in his pocket, showing the continual failing grades, would be the final blow he was certain.
The bitter breeze nipped at his cheeks and nose so gently he didn't realize it was ice cold. His fingers tingled as if they were asleep, but he could still feel the strings from the frayed cuffs of his thin jean jacket sweeping his palms. He stepped over the rusted rail and moved to the very edge of the bridge. Bits of rotted wood crumbled beneath his worn shoes and drifted down to the still waters.
He wanted to be in the water, enveloped by the darkness and taken far away from his angry father and failing grades-far away from the trailer park where rats were as much occupants as people. He was tired of the rats, tired of the screaming, tired of the beatings. End was all he longed for. Life left nothing for him to hope. With grades like his, he wouldn't get out of the world he was born into.
Glancing east, and then west, he looked down the silent tracks. Moonlight filtered through bare tree limbs and touched the rusted rails that faded away into nothingness. His path lay before him, straight north into the murky darkness of the cold waters.
He stretched his arms out and unclenched his fingers. A cool breeze whispered over him and he sucked it in, filling his lungs. It would be the last breath he took. He began to count. One, two...
"You ain't gonna jump are ya?" someone asked. The voice was deep and slurred.
Davey swayed back, rocking on his heels. He swung his arms forward and back to keep his balance and glanced around for the owner of the voice. No one was there.
"Hello," he said.
A breeze rattled the tree branches above. Clouds swooped over the moon. No person materialized. Davey sighed and decided it must've been his imagination. He stared down into the waters again and prepared himself for the freezing touch.
"Ya are gonna jump, aren't ya?"
Davey jumped back, stumbling over the iron rail. "Who's there?"
"My names Jacob."
Davey's stomach churned. Someone was there; someone now knew he had left his bedroom and if his father found out he would get a beating worse than any other.
"'Cause if ya are gonna jump, I've gotta warn ya, there ain't much room left down here," Jacob said.
"Let him be, Jacob." Another voice barked from the bare branches of the trees and wound around Davey's body. "We all know what he's feeling. Quit being such an arrogant space hoarder."
Davey felt fingers sliding over his clothes. He squirmed away and stepped back toward the center of the bridge again. His breaths grew shallow, creating dewy clouds before his face.
"What do you want? Leave me alone," Davey said. He wiped his sweaty palms on his thighs.
The air seemed to chuckle. Davey looked into the moonlit clouds that hung motionless in the black sky. He couldn't find the creators of the voices.
"I don't think ya really want that," Jacob said. His voice seemed to moan from the very depths of the creek. Davey dropped his gaze back to the water. It rippled now, reflecting faint lines of foam.
"Oh, come now Jacob, no need to scare the boy."
"Please, Jacob, Watkins, let the boy be. I should warn you, Davey, this current is hell on your complexion," a woman said. Her soft voice was a velvety whisper. Davey felt a breath against his cheek. He flinched away.
"I would love to have your company though. My name is Clarice. Do you like it?"
"Your name is whatever anyone wants it to be. You stay out of this, woman. It is my space in jeopardy here," Watkins said.
"Then how is it Jacob was the first to speak? And don't ever tell me what to do." The bare branches above swayed violently. "Maybe you want the boy's company as badly as I do."
Davey watched the trees creak and move from the unseen forces. Ending his misery suddenly wasn't important anymore. Fear thickened his blood and fogged his thoughts. His gaze darted from one end to the other of the bridge as he slowly stepped back towards his bike. His lungs burned, laboring with breaths. Things would be okay again if he could just get off the bridge and head home, back to the old leaky trailer.
"Don't be scared," Clarice said.
"I won't hurt ya," Jacob interrupted her. " I was just like ya, hopeless and lonely. I didn't know 'bout this place. Now I'm stuck here."
"You didn't bother warning me," Watkins growled. "You could have told me how cold it was going to be."
"Why didn't you tell me Watkins?" Clarice's voice was sharp and loud.
"Like I could have stopped that man from drowning you. Your type deserves what you got."
Davey shivered but not from the cold. His stomach churned and his knees weakened. He gasped. "Drowned, you're drowned?"
"But still delicious, darling," Clarice said. Her voice was sweet as thick syrup. "Why don't you come in and see for yourself. I'd love to see those gorgeous eyes close up."
"No Davey!" Jacob's voice pounded Davey's temples. "It's cold, and the ice of winter tears yer flesh and chips yer bones. The rocks keep ya trapped. I've been stuck here for seventy years. My bones haven't moved. Nobody'll find me, ever. Get away. Go as fast as ya can or ya'll be trapped to roam this river feelin' your body's pain and the ice of these waters. Get away. Get away!"
"Wait," Watkins said. "Don't leave. Help us. Come into the water. Find us. Rescue us. You can do it."
Davey reached the last railroad tie and stepped onto mossy dirt. His legs trembled, his gut cramped, and tears welled up in his eyes. He wanted to reach his bike. He wanted to go home.
"Come in and rescue me, you handsome man," Clarice said.
"Don't listen to her. Help me," Watkins barked.
The only suggestion Davey liked was the last. He stumbled on the uneven downhill slope and finally grasped the bike handles in his numb fingers. The water lapped hungrily at his feet and ankles as he lifted his bike.
"Davey, please, don't leave me here like this," Clarice said. "Come find me. I'm so alone." A wail sounded in the night.
"No, no, I don't think so," Davey said. "I've got to get home."
Clarice screamed. "No! Find me. Don't leave me here like this.
"Forget her. Get me. I'm a rich man. You can have all the coins in my overcoat. Place my bones in a grave so I can rest free of these imbeciles who share my tomb now."
Davey swung a numb leg over the torn seat of his bike. A hand shot out from the blackness of the water. The bones clamped on his ankle with merciless strength. He screamed.
"You won't get away so easily." Clarice laughed.
Davey struggled to start the bike as the skeletal hand yanked at his jeans and pulled him down. Icy water soaked through his shoe. Davey screamed in terror as the thought of being trapped under water with these things became clear to him. His heart raced, pounding his lungs so forcefully, he couldn't breath.
The bone fingers tore his jeans and sliced his skin. Davey yelped as the pain burned up his leg. He looked down and saw his blood flow over the skinned fingers.
The air grew heavy and pushed Davey down. It laughed thousands of laughs from every shadow. Davey clung to his bike, but it too slid down the embankment dangerously close to the menacing waters.
"If you won't help us, we will have you," Watkins said. He cackled deep in a throat Davey couldn't see and another skeletal hand leapt from the waters. Gray bits of tendons and flesh clung to the joints.
They pulled Davey deeper into the creek. His finger's weakened and slowly slid on the bike handles. He kicked, twisted, and begged for his life but the creatures didn't listen.
"Let him go!" Jacob's voice wailed from the clouds and the trees. The wind blew wildly and the dirt bike grumbled to life. Davey gripped the handlebars as tightly as he could and pulled up from the mud.
One skeletal appendage gripped more tightly as the bike lurched forward. The old engine sputtered and shook. A slimy shoulder rose from the water. The remains of a red dress clung to the gray-green ooze. Davey turned away, not wanting to see more. With one last kick of his leg, he broke free and sped off into the darkness back the way he had come.
The water grew still. The skeletal hands slowly melted back into the earth. The air and the trees stood motionless and clouds slowly drifted before the moon. All was silent and peaceful until the angry voices filled the night again.
"You lost another one Clarice. I wish I could drown you myself."
"Oh, shut up! Jacob ruined everything. Next time keep him quiet."
No part of this story may be copied or reproduced without authors permission. Any similarities to person places or things is used fictitiously or is coincidence.