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Witch of Ridley Creek
A Short Story of Horror
Danny could barely make out the arcing twisted branches under the black night sky. His night vision had just begun to come into focus.
“This all used to be fields full of cows and horses,” Jack said. “That’s crazy. None of these houses were here.”
“So, what do I care?” said Danny.
“It’s just crazy, that’s all.”
The two boys, stumbled like a couple of drunks, and made their way up the rocky banks of Ridley Creek. There was barely a crack of moonlight reflecting off of the rambling waters. It flashed white beams across the woods, like a light show at Disneyland.
The two had felt they deserved some reward for successfully completing the sixth grade. Generously obliging, their mothers extended their curfews a bit. They decided to spend it at their favorite spot along the creek, launching the occasional stone into the rushing water.
Danny, the more timid of the two, kept his head down trying to keep his balance. He stepped gingerly, like the uneven rocks kept sneaking in under his heels. Jack, on the other hand looked like he staggered intentionally, as though he always walked that way. He appeared comfortable with the awkward steps.
“Danny, you look like a chicken learning to walk for the first time,” Jack chided.
“You look like a loser whose mother has been around the block a few times,” Danny shot back. He nearly took a header trying to speak and walk at the same time.
“You look like the son of a crack whore… oh snap, you are the son of a crack whore. Sorry.”
A ruffling off in the woods caught Danny’s attention. He stopped cold snapping his head towards it, nearly throwing himself into the water. “Did you hear that?”
“Stop clomping around, and listen!”
The two stood motionless for a moment, both trying to hear above the rushing of the creek.
“I don’t hear anything, Danny. You must be crazy.”
The two continued stumbling around, but Danny couldn’t shake the feeling, and said “I know I heard something.”
“You ever heard of the Witch of Ridley Creek?”
Danny’s head popped to attention, feeling a tingle along his spine. “What the hell is your problem!” he said.
“Like two hundred years ago, some lady used to come down to this creek with her cows, and wash her clothes in the creek.”
“You are so full of crap!”
“No, seriously. Some farm people dragged her into town, saying she put a curse on their cows, so they wouldn’t give any more milk. She couldn’t speak any English, so when they asked her questions, all she did was smile or something. The town's people figured she was guilty, so they burned her alive. They say she still walks up and down this creek every night washing clothes. She’s waiting for the people who killed her to come back, so she can get revenge.”
“Shut up!” Danny roared, viciously. His mind began racing through bitter thoughts of eyes in the woods. He heard cracks and shuffles. With the flickering light in the corners of his eyes, he couldn’t stop his head from darting about looking for contorted shapes in the distance. They were probably nothing but a tree branch or bushes, but his imagination saw creatures.
A ways down the creek, about 50 feet, Danny spotted a curved shape. It looked like the arc of a spine, misshapen into a hump, after years of hard labor. The black figure bobbed up and down, sloshing into the creek and quickly rolling back out.
Danny let his eyes linger on the shape for at least a minute, hoping his night vision would make sense of it. His legs were like trees rooted to the ground. His muscles became tense and his skin cold. Burning, like fire, his eyes demanded to blink, but couldn’t. That would give the figure enough time to pounce.
Danny took a few awkward steps backwards. “I think it’s about time we got home.” As he spoke, he felt a rock under his left foot begin to slide. It was enough to bring him crashing to the ground. Hearing a pop, he grabbed for his wrist. Before he grabbed it, he knew what it was. His watchband had snapped, and flung itself into the darkness. No problem, he thought--better to come back tomorrow in the light, and look for it. His heart pounded.
The two boys, quickly shuffled like zombies, and made their way through the woods back home.
The next morning, Danny felt silly, approaching their favorite spot along the creek. All lit up in the sunlight, it looked tame and serene—an ordinary place.
His steps were cautious along the rocks, but clearly more stable. Letting his eyes survey the area, he made his way up the bank. Stones, twigs, tree branches and mud littered the embankment, but not a single ghost or specter to pounce him. Such a normal place with fish and earth worms as the only animated life.
Noticing a large rock a little ways up, he started towards it. A couple feet in diameter, there seemed to be something draped across the top of it. Stumbling along, his eyes kept focus on the rock. His heart began to race. It was nothing, he re-assured himself. There is nothing to worry about in the daytime.
Closing in, it became clear something black was draped over the top. He hooked his fingers around it, and lifted it up. A damp cloth is what it felt like, and it smelled of mildew and fish. The garment slipped from his fingers, and he felt cold eyes from a distance.
He spun on his heels and bolted into the woods.