Purple Heart Road

Purple Heart Road

A Story by Raleighwheels

Purple Heart Road

 

For Jared Waters, it was a typical summer in central Pennsylvania.  When Jared wasn’t working at the local grocery store, he liked to spend his time with his best friends.  The group of high school students usually spent the day hanging out in Todd and Michael Long’s home.  A typical day of hanging out with the brothers consisted of watching movies and playing video games.

            Jared was getting bored with just hanging around and doing nothing.  Through the small window in Todd’s room, he could see that he had wasted the day and that night was quickly coming.  “So, what do you guys wanna do?”  Jared asked as he looked around at everyone.  “Sitting around is getting boring.  We haven’t done anything all day and I am sick of sitting in this tiny room.”

            “Yeah, all this sitting around is kind of getting boring,” Margret said, agreeing with Jared.  “We should get out of the house and go somewhere.”

            Jared and Margret were sitting next to each other on a pink and white mattress that Todd had lying next to his bed.  Todd offered a few ideas, all of which consisted of exactly what they were doing, but with something different on the screen in front of them.  Michael got up from his brother’s side on the bed and stood in front of the TV.      “How about we go to this old haunted bridge in Lewisburg?”  Michael asked, scratching his black hair.

            “I don’t know,” said Todd in a shaky tone.  He scratched his head near the large and somewhat grotesque scar.  “I kind of like sitting here watching the movie.”

            That is all Todd wants to do, thought Jared.  It had been almost a year since Jared was getting ready to leave for his first year of college only to get the news that Todd had been in a terrible car accident on the street running in front of the Long family home.  Fate threw Todd from the vehicle and onto his front lawn. 

            The first three weeks of college should have been an exciting time for Jared.  He should have been devoting his time to homework, but instead he spent his time near his computer and cell phone, anxiously waiting for news of Todd awaking up from his coma.

            Todd spent three months in a rehabilitation center not far from the college Jared attended.  Every few weeks, Jared would come to the rehab center to visit Todd.  Seeing Todd with a shaved head, stuck in a hospital bed and only able to whine like a child when he wanted something broke Jared’s heart every time.  Todd wasn’t able to walk.  He had to have someone push him around in a wheelchair.  Todd was only able to go out onto the rehab center’s front porch.  Jared was the only one of Todd’s friends who visited on a regular basis.  It seemed that with Jared always being there, that their friendship was growing stronger.  When Jared got the news from Michael that Todd was coming home, he thought that things would get back to how they once were.

            Once Todd starting getting all the money from his insurance company and the company of the girl driving the car he was riding in, everyone noticed a change in Todd’s behavior.  Jared thought that since he had been cooped up in various hospitals for months that Todd would want to get out of the house, but that wasn’t the case.  All he wanted to do was sit around and order things off the internet.

            “The rest of us want to do something,” Margret said, tilting her head to get a look at Todd.  “The bridge sounds like it could be fun and we would be getting out into the fresh air.”

            “How did you hear of this bridge?”  Jared asked Michael.

            “I went there with a kid I work with.  It was really creepy.  The bridge is out in the middle of nowhere.  There is a ‘Watch for Children’ sign about a hundred yards in front of the bridge, but there are no houses in the area.  The bridge is supposed to be haunted by a little boy who died there.”

            “Well, I personally don’t believe in that ghost stuff, but anything would be better than wasting my night here,” Jared said, while standing up.

            Jared held out his hand and helped Margret to her feet, and told her to hold still for a moment while he picked a piece of lint out of her hair.  They had only been going out for a few months when Todd was in the accident.  The accident had really allowed them to open up about their feelings and made their relationship stronger.

            “But you guys,” Todd said in a childish tone.  “What about the movie?” 

            After ten minutes of pleading, Jared, Margret and Michael were able to persuade Todd to come with them.  Michael said that they would be gone an hour and a half, tops.  There was plenty of time for him to watch more movies when they got back.

            Todd stayed upstairs while the others went downstairs to get their jackets.  Michael got into a conversation with his mom about a school project he had to do the next day.  Jared and Margret stood quietly in the kitchen as Michael’s mom told him that he shouldn’t be putting off his school work.  She had always had high expectations for Michael.  Whenever Michael got a bad grade in school, his mom would punish him, but when the same thing happened to Todd, she would just shrug and tell him to try harder. 

            After standing awkwardly in the kitchen for a few seconds, Jared went upstairs to check on Todd.  He found him in the bathroom trying to comb his short black hair.

            “What’s up, dude?”  Todd asked.

            “Nothing much.  I’m just checking to see if you are ready to go,” Jared said with a chuckle, as Todd continued messing with his hair.

            In an angry tone, he said, “Well, that is as good as it is going to get.”  He then threw down his comb, turned toward Jared and said, “Okay, let’s go.”

            As the two boys walked down the creaky wooden stairs, Todd started telling Jared about another tattoo that he was planning on getting.

            “You should come with me when I get it,” Todd said.

            “Perhaps, when is your appointment?”

            “I haven’t made one yet, but I was thinking about trying to go next week.”

            “Damn,” Jared said in an aggravated tone.  “I can’t go then; I have to go back to class next week.”

            “Oh, well maybe some other time?”

            “Yeah,” Jared said quietly.  “Maybe some other time.”

            Jared knew that this “other time” would never come.  Since he had headed off to school, he had taken notice to the fact that he was being subtly excluded from events.  It had first started when Todd got home, and decided to throw a big party for himself.  Of course he had planned it for in the middle of the week, which guaranteed that Jared couldn’t make it.  And just a couple of weeks earlier, all of his friends had made plans to go and see a really cool looking movie that had just come out in theaters.  Jared wasn’t able to go with everyone because they had told him about it at the last minute and he couldn’t take off from work.  A few of Jared’s friends acted upset when he said that he had to work.  They begged him to just call in sick, but Jared wasn’t the type of person to just make up excuses to ditch his responsibilities.  The only friend that seemed indifferent about the situation was Todd.

            They walked downstairs and met up with Margret and Michael.  As they walked out into the warm night air, Michael offered to drive, since he knew where to go.

“Hang on a second, I have my camera in my truck, I’m gonna go grab it quick,” Jared said, while digging the keys to his red truck out of his pocket.  He unlocked his truck and dug his camera out of the glove compartment and ran back to Michael’s car.

  Jared sat next to Michael in the passenger seat.  Jared would have liked to sit in the back next to Margret, but Todd’s mom had made up a rule that he had to sit in the backseat for a little while.  Everyone knew that she was just being paranoid, but as long as they followed her rules, things would go smoothly.

Before heading to the next town, Michael made a turn towards a small building called “The Buggy Wash.”

“What are we doing here dude?”  Jared asked as he looked at the little cartoon car covered in soapy bubbles.

“Well, according to what I heard,” Michael started as he fed the machine outside of the automatic wash a few dollar bills.  “You have to wash your car first, then, once you get to the bridge, you have to cover your car in baby powder.”

A green light flashed, signaling Michael that he could pull his car into the wash.

“Why do you need to put baby powder on the car?” Margret asked, leaning forward so that her head poked in between the two front seats.

Michael pulled his car into the building and turned it off.  The water blasted the car from both sides as he turned to face Margret and Jared.

“Again, according to the stories I have heard about the bridge, you have to stop your car on the bridge, turn it off, lock the doors, and cover it in baby powder.  Then, supposedly, after you wait for a long time, there are suppose to be tiny fingerprints in the powder.”

“I don’t know man,” Jared said with a smirk.  “That sounds kinda weak.”

Once the car wash was finished, Michael started the ignition and said, “Trust me, it will be a good time.”

            There wasn’t a moment of silence in the car.  The music Michael was playing shook the windows.  They traveled through their small, quiet town and into the neighboring town.  A college was located in the middle of the town.  The people there tended to be rich and snobby, unlike the working class folk that populated Jared’s home town.  Jared couldn’t help but to look at each of the streetlights as the car drove through the downtown area.  During the school year, college students crowded the sidewalks, going in and out of various bars and restaurants.  Once they got past the town’s limits, everything around the car went black.

            An eerie glow covered the vast amounts of open fields and the solitary patches of trees.  Every so often the glow of house lights could be seen on the horizon.

            Jared turned down the volume on the car radio and asked Michael, “So what is the story with this bridge?  And why do people think that it is haunted?”

            “Well,” Michael started to explain, “Supposedly, many years ago, this little boy was walking on the bridge, heading back to his house after school.  It was a foggy afternoon, but there was a man speeding down the streets.  The man came to the bridge, but didn’t slow down.  He saw the boy on the bridge, but was unable to stop his car in time.  He struck the boy, killing him instantly.  Now they say that the kid still wanders on the bridge, unable to leave it.”

            “That is some story,” Jared said.  “But why is he a ghost?”

            Margret answered Jared, “Maybe he is a ghost because he died suddenly and never got back home?”

            Michael made a right turn onto a poorly paved road.  The sign was bent and kind of faded, but Jared was able to make out the words “Purple Heart Road.”  Everyone was bouncing around in their seats.  They traveled down this road for a couple of miles with nothing but fields on either side of them.  Sure enough, the car’s headlights shined upon a yellow diamond-shaped sign that said, “Watch for Children.”

Michael slowed the car down so that it was just barely rolling.  “See, that is the sign I was telling you about.  There are no houses around for at least a mile.”  He said looking at Jared, then at everyone else in the car.

“That is really creepy,” Margret whispered.

“Yeah,” Jared said, agreeing with Margret.  “I wonder if there were once houses in this area.”

Michael applied more pressure on the gas pedal, sending the car speeding towards a large black object down the road.

“Michael, mom said that you shouldn’t speed when I am in the car,” Todd said in a somewhat whining tone.

Michael groaned and eased up on the gas.  As they got closer to the black object, Jared finally made it out to be a group of large trees.

            The car traveled into the dense trees.  Jared could no longer see the moon through the trees.  The glow from the car’s headlights was just powerful enough to make objects close to the car visible and allow everything else to be outlined. 

            Jared could see the outline of a covered bridge just a couple hundred feet down the road.  Michael began to slow down, when a crow suddenly flew in front of the car and landed on the road.  Michael stopped the car.  The crow stood frozen in the middle of the road, just staring at the car. 

            “Look at the caw-caw!”  Margret said in a high-pitched voice.  “It is so cute!”

            The crow began slowly pacing back and forth on the road.  Every so often it would stop and pick at its feathers.  Michael marveled at the size of the bird, stating that it looked to be about the size of one of the cats that lived in his house.  Growing impatient for the bird to move, he eased his foot off the brakes, allowing the car to roll toward the bird.  The crow flew off, cawing, when the car got a few feet away from it.

            The car moved slowly toward the bridge, giving everyone a great view of it.  The bridge was only wide enough for one car to pass over it at a time.  Peeling red paint covered the outside of the bridge.  Dull black shingles covered the roof.  Cars were meant to travel on two thick boards that ran through the bridge.  Jared and Michael could easily see the beams inside the bridge that held up the roof of the bridge.

            Slowly, Michael drove into the bridge and stopped about halfway across.  He asked Margret to give him the baby powder that was somewhere in the backseat.  Todd never lifted a finger to help in the search for the baby powder.  He just sat in the seat texting on his cell phone.  Finally, Margret found the small white bottle and handed it to Michael.

            “Okay, what you are supposed to do, is put baby powder on all over the door handles and on the bumper of the car.  Then, lock all the doors, turn the car engine off, and sit silently.  According to all the rumors, finger prints of a child are supposed to appear in the powder,” Michael said, while opening the baby powder bottle.

            Everyone took turns rolling down the windows and sprinkling powder on the door handles.  Michael locked all the doors from up front and turned the car off.  He told Todd that he would have to stop messing around on his phone and sit silently. 

            “You can’t tell me what to do, you b*****d,” Todd said in a monotone voice at Michael.

            “Well, get over it,” Michael said as he turned around to look at his brother.

            Todd stuck his middle finger up at Michael.  “F**k you,” he said as he shoved the phone into his tight jeans.

            Michael didn’t bother to retaliate.  He rolled his eyes at Jared as he turned back around.

            The group sat in the dark, not making a noise.  Jared was trying to calm his breathing so that it didn’t make a sound.  He felt like his sense of hearing was getting better, since he couldn’t see very much around him.  Ten minutes after Michael turned the engine off, the clock on the radio went out, leaving them in total darkness.  The crow appeared in the opening at the other side of the bridge.  It walked from one side of the bridge to the other, stopping occasionally to look into the bridge at the car.  It flew off once it reached the other side of the opening.  No more than a minute later, Jared could have sworn that he could hear a small tapping noise at the back of the car, somewhere around the trunk area.  Jared’s eyes slowly widened and his face tensed up.  He turned his head cautiously to look at Michael.  Michael’s eyes were wide and he breathing was heavy.  The two boys turned their heads slowly so that they could get a good look out the back window.  The sound was like that of someone lightly drumming their fingers on the vehicle.  The noise slowly made its way up the passenger side of the car.

            “What is that?”  Jared whispered to Michael.

            Michael shook his head and mouthed out the words that he didn’t know.  Jared turned to look at Todd, who sat in the backseat looking seemingly unfazed by the sound.  Jared turned back around and shook his head.

When the tapping got to Jared’s door, it stopped.  Everything was silent for a moment, and then there was a loud bang as if someone had smacked their hand against the door.  Jared could actually feel the door vibrate against his knee, from the hit.  He jumped in his seat a little.  He clasped his hand over his mouth, to try and stop from screaming.  The tapping resumed going the rest of the way, to the front of the car.  Once the sound reached the front of the car, it ceased and everyone in the car was left in silence once again.

Everyone was on edge, sitting silently in the dark listening.  Jared slowly turned his head from right to left, looking and listening for anything that might give this whole “ghost” thing up as a hoax.  Suddenly, there was a loud vibrating noise from the backseat that made everyone jump in their seats with a scream.

“Oops.  It’s just my cell phone,” Todd said with a smile.

Todd pulled out his phone and began punching the buttons with his fingers.  The glow from the phone and the clicking of the buttons filled the car.

“That’s it,” Michael said in a disappointed tone, “Todd probably scared off the ghost.”

Jared smiled at Michael and turned his head to look at Todd.  Through the glow from the cell phone, Jared could faintly make out the outline of a child next to the back window looking into the car at Todd.  Jared tried to hold in his scream, but a squeaking sound was able to escape him.

“There was a kid standing next to Todd’s window!”  he exclaimed, looking at Michael.

Everyone quickly turned to look out Todd’s window, but there was nothing out the window.  Michael decided to that they should sit on the bridge for a few more minutes to see if anything else happened, but nothing ever did. 

Michael started up the car and slowly continued through the bridge, so that the powder didn’t blow away.  As the car rolled through the bridge, Jared suddenly felt sick to his stomach.

“Wow, my stomach is starting to feel funny,” Margret said only a few seconds after the feeling overcame Jared.

“Really?”  Jared said, turning around to look at Margret.  “I was just going to say that my stomach was killing me, too.”

Michael pulled the car to the side of the road, as soon as the car got to the other side of the covered bridge.  Everyone rolled down their windows to inspect the door handles.  The first thing that Jared noticed was the calm that was in the air.  He expected to hear crickets or something chirping in the darkness, but there was nothing.  Both Todd and Jared noticed that they had tiny fingerprints on their door handles, and the powder on Margret and Michael’s door handles was suspiciously missing.    

Jared got out of the car and started taking pictures of the child’s fingerprints on Todd’s door, since the ones on his door had blown away when he slammed the car door shut.  The rest of the group got out of the car and started walking around the area.  Michael was going from door to door wiping the baby powder off the handles with the cuff of his shirt, all the while telling Jared that the car must not have been washed properly and the prints in the powder were their own.  Todd was pacing along the car, texting on his phone.   Jared and Margret walked onto the bridge, while Todd and Michael stayed next to the car, in case someone came driving by.

As Jared and Margret walked onto the bridge, Jared began taking pictures in every direction.  Some of the pictures had Margret in them and others were just of the bridge itself.  In the flash from the camera, Jared could see particles of powder still floating in the air.  Jared could hear the trickling of water all around the bridge.  He simply came to the conclusion that a stream must be running under the bridge.  As he walked around the bridge, loud splashes in the water made him stop in his tracks.  He listened as something stomped around in the water.  Margret heard the noise too, and following Jared’s lead, she froze.  After listening to the splashes for a minute, she slowly and quietly made her way over to Jared.

“It must be some kind of animal,” she whispered to Jared.

“Yeah,” Jared agreed. “It must be a pretty good size.”

The two carefully made their way back to Michael’s car and got in.  Michael started up the car and they drove down a long road, trying to find a place to turn around.  Trees lined the road, but they saw no areas to pull into so they could get going in the direction towards home.  Soon, the dead trees along the road were replaced by rusted cars and trucks.  In the middle of the old cars, was a single off-white trailer, with an rusted school bus in the dirt driveway.

Michael pulled into the driveway and quickly pulled out, whipping the wheel, to get turned around.  He never stopped or slowed down as he drove over the covered bridge.  Once they got onto the main road that led through the neighboring town, the tapping started again.  Jared could feel the vibration of the tapping when he pressed his hand against his door. 

“What’s that noise?”  Jared asked Michael. 

Trying to keep his eyes on the road, he replied, “Maybe there is something on the door?  Roll down the window and stick your head out to see if you can see anything.”

Jared rolled down the window and stuck his head out to look at the door.  He watched the yellow lines on the road wiz by.  Jared enjoyed the feeling of the wind blowing through his brown hair.  He looked all over the door, but couldn’t see anything.

“There isn’t anything there,” he said to Michael.

“Maybe it’s the ghost,” Todd said in a serious tone, only to burst out laughing when Margret and Jared looked at him.

Jared chuckled for a second before saying, “Yeah, maybe.”

The tapping stopped once they got back to Todd and Michael’s house.  Jared and Margret said their goodbyes to the brothers, and went over to Jared’s truck.  Jared opened the passenger door for Margret and closed it when she got settled in her seat.  The truck wheels slid on the gravel driveway as they pulled out onto the main road. 

“So, what did you think of that bridge?”  Jared asked Margret.

“It was pretty creepy,” Margret said, looking out the window at a small cemetery close to the side of the road.  “What did you think?”

“I don’t know,” Jared said glancing at Margret for a second and then looking back at the road.  “Maybe someone was playing a trick on us.”

“I don’t know,” Margret said.  “If all of what we experienced tonight was a hoax, then it was a pretty elaborate one.”

Jared walked Margret to her door and wished her a good night and told her that he loved her.  The walk from her porch to his truck wasn’t a long one, but it always put him on edge.  Trees lined the sides of her street.  The trees were slowly pushing up the concrete sidewalk in some areas.  The houses that lined her street had electric candles displayed in their windows.  The dim glow from the candles was accompanied by the glow from the moon.  The sticks that littered the sidewalk crunched and cracked under his feet.  Jared always found himself rushing to his truck after dropping Margret off.

When Jared finally got back to his home, which was just a couple of miles out of town, his parents were already asleep.  The house was dark and silent.  Jared crept up the carpeted stairs.  He found his sister sleeping in her bed, with her TV on.  Jared walked into the room, stepping over piles of clothes that were either dirty or clean, to turn off the TV.  He went into his room to get his pajamas, so he could get ready for bed.

Jared got a shower and brushed his teeth.  Then he went into his room and slipped under the cool sheets that covered his bed.  He closed his eyes and tried to go to sleep.  After lying in bed for ten minutes, he started to get an eerie feeling, as though he was being watched.  He opened his eyes just enough to get a peek around the room.  He couldn’t make out anything in the room, except for blackness.  He kept his eyes open so that they would adjust to the lack of light.  As his eyes adjusted, he began to see what looked like a child standing in a corner of his room, just next to his closet.

He closed his eyes tight for a moment and hoped that if he ignored the figure for a moment, then it would go away.  Jared was breathing hard and praying that when he opened his eyes, nothing would be there.  And sure enough, when he quickly sat up and opened his eyes, there was nothing in the room.  He felt calm, and the feeling that someone was watching him disappeared.  Jared laid back down and fell into a deep sleep.

Jared woke up the next day, around ten in the morning.  Once he had gotten dressed and brushed his teeth, he decided to upload the pictures that he had taken the previous night onto his laptop.

He heard someone coming up the stairs.  Then, there was a knock on his door.

“Come in,” he said.

His white bedroom door opened to reveal his mom standing in his doorway.

“What’s up?” his mom asked.

“Nothing too much,” he replied.  “I’m just uploading some pictures that I took last night onto my computer.”

“What did you guys do last night?”  Jared’s mom asked, while taking a couple steps into his room.

“We all went to this bridge that is supposedly haunted,” Jared replied.

“How was it?”

Jared connected his camera to his laptop, and then answered, “It was okay, but I don’t really believe in that kind of stuff.”

“Yeah, well at least it was something to do.”

“Yeah, it was better than sitting in Todd’s room listening to him ramble on about how much he loves Symbiote Spider-Man.”

His mom laughed for a second.  “I was thinking we could have lunch in a bit.  Maury will be on soon.”

“Awesome!” Jared exclaimed.  “I’ll be down as soon as I finish loading these pictures on here.”

“Okay.  I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

His mom left without closing his door.  Usually it would have bugged him, but he didn’t mind it so much today, because his sister was at school and his dad had left early that morning to go work at the prison.  This was the one thing he liked about being in college; he was on summer break before everyone else.

Once the pictures were done loading on his computer, Jared started looking through them.  He had gone through five pictures and there was nothing strange about them.  The next picture that he looked at was one that he took of one end of the bridge, while he stood at the other.  Something in the photo caught his eye.  He magnified the area of the picture that seemed strange.  His heart sunk in his chest, when he saw the head of a little boy peeking out from around the corner of the bridge.

Trying to play it off as a joke, he went to the next picture.  This picture was taken while he was standing on the bridge.  On the wooden wall was the shadow of what looked to be a child squatting.  He studied everything in the picture to see if he could find some other object on the bridge that might have the shape of a child squatting.  Nervous laughter escaped from inside him.  He shook his head and went to the next picture.

This was a picture that featured Margret, who was sticking her tongue out and squeezing her eyes tight in the picture.  There was a small patch of fog just behind her.  Jared thought back to the previous night.  For the life of him he couldn’t remember if it had been foggy.  He just assumed that it was foggy that night and he had captured some fog in the picture.

The final picture was of the bridge, but was taken many feet away.   Jared saw the translucent image of a small boy with dark hair standing in the middle of the bridge.  Squinting at the image, he could barely make out the clothing the boy was wearing.  The striped pattern of the boy’s shirt blended in well with the horizontal boards of the bridge’s side.

Jared felt his heart fall from his chest and go to his toes.  He heard his mom calling from downstairs.  Jared left his computer on his bed and went down to join his mom for lunch.

It was hard for him to forget about the pictures on his computer.  He ate his turkey sandwich and immersed himself in the hilarious stories on Maury.  On commercials, his mom was talking to him about her work at a locally owned restaurant and about the things that had been going on with his sister.  But, all of his mom’s talking couldn’t get his mind off the pictures.

After he had eaten and finished watching TV, he went back upstairs to look at the pictures again. 

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Jared said aloud.  “But how can I dispute these pictures?”

Slowly, Jared started to come to grips with the convincing photographs in front of him.  If ghosts are real, then what else could be real?  Where could he draw the line?  He kept wondering if vampires and other monstrous creatures were also real.  

He wanted to show the pictures to Margret right away, but he thought that she would want to show the pictures to everyone.  Still, he thought that he could get a logical explanation about what was on the pictures from her.

Jared packed his laptop up, grabbed his camera, told his mom that he was going out for a bit, and drove over to Margret’s house.

Margret’s house was in the center of town.  The house had a very nice looking brick front porch and sun-bleached green siding.  The doorbell had long ago stopped working, so Margret’s dad decided to remove it.  Now, all that remained of the doorbell was the beige plastic back.  Jared pulled the dented screen door open and knocked three times on the door.

The door swung open and Jared saw Margret standing there.

“Hey,” Margret said with a smile.  “Come on in.”

She moved to the side, and Jared walked into the house.  As usual, he took his shoes off-even though no one else in the house did- on the plastic mat laid out in front of the door.  The front living room smelled faintly of dog, because of Margret’s old beagle that spent most of its day lounging on the floor.  Jared followed Margret through the house and up the carpeted stairs until they reached her room.

“Here,” Jared said, setting his laptop down on her bed and pressing the power button.  “I want to show you some of the pictures that I took from last night.”

“Alright,” Margret said.  “I bet I look really bad in the pictures you took of me.”

“Oh you,” Jared said endearingly as he put his hand on her shoulder.  “I want you to give me your opinion on some things that are in the pictures.

Once the computer finished starting up, Jared moved the mouse around on the screen and clicked on the icon to bring up the pictures.  After they loaded, he turned the screen towards Margret and told her to look and see if she could see anything odd in the pictures.

It didn’t take long before she reacted.

“Holy s**t!”  She exclaimed.  “What the hell is that?”

Jared walked over and saw that she was looking at the picture of a little boy standing on the bridge.

“Pretty strange, huh?”

Margret’s voice quivered as she said, “I don’t like it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it is too scary.”

“This may sound crazy,” Jared said.  “But, I’m thinking about going back up there tonight and investigating the bridge more to see if I can figure out what is going on.  Do you want to come?”

Margret thought about it for a few seconds before answering, “I really don’t want to.  This stuff freaks me out too much.  I mean, I like being scared, but only when I know it is pretend.”

“But,” Jared said almost pleadingly, “This just might be pretend.  There may be a logical explanation for this stuff.”

“Jared, how can you argue with this?”  She asked as she turned the little boy’s image towards him.

“Well, that one might be hard to explain, but the stuff in the other pictures must have a natural explanation.”

“I just don’t think that I want to go there again,” Margret said.

Jared spent the rest of the day watching movies and playing pool with Margret.  Once the night came, Jared packed his computer up and told Margret that he would call her once he finished investigating the bridge.  She told him to be careful as she kissed his cheek.  He smiled and promised to be.

Once he got into his truck, he called Michael on his cell phone, hoping to get some company for the trip.  Like usual, Michael didn’t answer his phone.  Jared then called Todd.

“Hey,” Todd said when he answered the phone.

“Hey,” Jared said in response.  “What are you up to?”

“Oh, nothing much, I’m just looking for some Symbiote Spider-Man comics online.  What about you?”

“Well, I was thinking about going back to that bridge,” Jared said with a cringe.  “Do you want to come with me?  No one else will.”

“I don’t know, man.  We did that yesterday,” Todd said as he unwrapped some of his new DVDs.

“I know.  I just thought it would be cool to go back and spend more time investigating around that area.”

“I don’t know if I want to do that again.  I have stuff to do here.”

“Okay,” Jared said dejectedly.  “I guess I’ll call you some other time.”

“Yeah, definitely.  We can do something later on.”

“That would be fun.  Alright, I’ll talk to you later then.”

“Okay, see you later, dude.”

Before he continued on, Jared stopped at the grocery store in town to buy a small bottle of baby powder.

As Jared drove towards the bridge, he started thinking about how much Todd had changed since he was in the accident.  A gas station located on the outskirts of town reminded Jared of the time he and Todd stole a small baby Jesus from the back of another friend’s car.  As they started driving towards the exit of the gas station, their friend jumped onto the side-rails of Jared’s truck, laughing, and tried to reach through the open window to get the toy child.  The memory almost brought Jared to tears, but he fought to keep them from surfacing.

Todd used to always want to go somewhere.  In high school, he begged Jared to go places with him.  Jared always thought that he was just being used by Todd, because he would never refuse to take a person whom he was friends with to wherever they wanted to go.  Jared didn’t hang out with Todd that much during the summer after their senior year.  Margret was puzzled as to why, but Jared had his suspicions.  Jared thought that working more and not having the time to take Todd everywhere had caused a rift in their friendship.  Because of Todd’s injuries, Jared thought that he could repair their relationship, so it could be like it once was.  In the months following the accident, Todd called Jared once a week-more than he did any of his other friends-making Jared think everything was going to be back to normal.  But, Todd hadn’t been out of the hospital more than a month or two when Jared realized that his friend wasn’t the same.    

Why doesn’t he ever want to do anything fun?  Jared thought.  All he is doing with his life now is sitting around and getting fat.

Before Jared knew it, he was driving in downtown Lewisburg.  He made sure to stop at a car wash to make sure that his truck was clean before he poured the powder on his truck.  As he went over the bridge, he started looking carefully for the road that led to the haunted bridge.  Finally, the words “Purple Heart Road” shone brightly in the high-beams from Jared’s truck.

Jared clicked his radio off as he turned onto the poorly made road.  The quarter moon shone dimly through the trees.  Jared turned his high-beams on so that he could look out for any animals that could be standing along the roadside.  Soon, the “Watch for Children” sign came into view.  Once Jared passed the sign, he could make out a dark blob in the middle of the road, which was the bridge.

The truck slowed down just before its wheels drove up onto the two boards that ran down the length of the bridge.  When he was in the middle of the bridge, Jared stopped the truck and put it in park.  He cautiously got out of the truck, keeping his ears open for any types of odd sounds, and started sprinkling the baby powder across the bumper.  Then, he poured some powder on the leather cover of the truck’s bed.  Jared stopped when he heard the faint sound of footprints at the other end of the bridge.  His heart seemed to be beating in his stomach as he listened to the sound, which seemed to be pacing back and forth.  He prayed that the sound was just the wind beating against the bridge, but he quickly realized that no sounds were coming from his end of the bridge.  After the sound went away, and he started to calm down, Jared went back to pouring the baby powder along the passenger side handle.

Suddenly, there was a bang on the wall of the bridge just behind him that caused Jared to jump.  He turned around only to find nothing there.  Trying to act calm, he walked around to the open driver’s side door and reached in to get his camera.  With the camera in his hand, Jared walked to the back of his truck and waited for something to happen.

Movement out of the corner of his eye broke his concentration on his powder-covered bumper.  When he turned to see what was moving, there was nothing there.  Jared squinted to try and see better in the dark, but when he concluded that maybe his mind was playing games on him, he turned back to watch the bumper again.  His eyes widened and his heart raced when he saw a child-like handprint on the bumper.

Once his camera turned on, Jared started taking pictures of the print.  He took a few steps towards his truck, hoping to get an even better picture.  As he snapped a few more pictures, he saw a circle being drawn in the baby powder by some unseen force.  He took a picture once the circle was completed.  Then, two dots appeared in the circle.  After he took another picture of the forming image, a semi-circle line appeared inside the circle.  It only took Jared a second to realize that the image he was looking at was a smiley face.  He quickly snapped a couple of pictures before he stood up and looked around him for any signs of the child.

“Are you here?”  Jared asked to the empty bridge.  “Can you give me some kind of sign?”  He listened quietly for any noise that could be construed as an answer.  After patiently waiting for what seemed like hours, he decided to try again.  “I’m not here to hurt you; I just want to know you are real.”

 There was silence once again.  Jared listened to the stillness in the air.  A small tug on his shirt made him flinch.  He looked down and watched the bottom of his purple shirt stretch out towards his truck, as if something was pulling it.  The tugging got harder as Jared watched his shirt with amazement.  Then, he moved in the direction the tugging was taking him.  Once he was a few inches from the back of his truck, a shape started to be drawn in the powder that covered the black tonno cover.  Jared didn’t know what to make of the small, imperfect heart that the boy had drawn for him.

“Heart?”  Jared said puzzled.  “What’s that suppose to mean?”

Again, there was silence.  There were no more tugs on his shirt and he couldn’t here any sounds coming from the bridge.  After waiting for a few more minutes, he walked along the passenger side to see if there were any prints in the baby powder.  To his surprise, there was no powder on the door handle, but there was some powder on the wooden board underneath the handle.  It looked as if someone had wiped the powder off the door.  Remembering what the people on TV forensic shows always advised, Jared took a couple pictures of the handle and of the powder traces on the floor to accurately document the whole scene.

Jared stood quietly on the bridge for a few more minutes, listening for anymore signs that the boy was with him.  The sound of a cricket’s sudden chirping caused him to jump in place.  Soon, all of the normal noises of a summer night seemed to rush back and engulf the bridge.  Taking the flurry of activity to be a sign that the boy wasn’t in the area, he walked to the back of the vehicle once again, to wipe the baby powder off of the truck, when Jared saw that there was something else written on his tonno cover.  The handwriting was very childish looking, but Jared was able to make out the words, “Big Pine Tree.”

“What the hell does that mean?”  Jared asked as he turned in circles, scanning once more for the boy.

Jared soon turned his camera off and quickly wiped the baby powder off the truck with his hand.  He jumped into the vehicle, turned it on, and inched the rest of the way through the bridge, scanning for any final signs of the boy’s presence.

Once he was safely on the other side of the bridge, he applied pressure to the gas pedal and sped down the country road, trying to find a good place to turn around.

When the scenery turned from trees to rusted cars, he remembered the place where Michael had turned around the previous night.  Soon, the old school bus came into view, and Jared started to slow down.  The off-white trailer didn’t have any lights on, and Jared hoped that he could pull into the driveway and turn around before his headlights woke anyone up.

After turning around, Jared rocket toward the bridge, but had to come to an abrupt stop when he saw the glow of headlights coming from the other side.  He waited impatiently for the old, rusted Cadillac to cross the bridge.  Once it was safe, he focused on the bridge’s exit, not letting his eyes wander, and drove through.

On the way home, he called Margret and tried to describe-as best he could-what had happened.  He was in a scared, but excited state, which caused all his sentences to run together, and Margret wasn’t able to follow a single thing he was saying.  As he crested the hill close to his house, he told Margret that he would show her the pictures the next day, but she reminded him that she had to work the next day.  With the wind blown out of his sails, Jared said he would just show her some other night.  The two said their goodnights, and Jared hung up the phone.

It wasn’t late in the night, but everyone was in bed when Jared came in through the garage door.  He made sure to stop into his parent’s room to let them know that he had gotten back home safely.

“What did you do tonight?”  His mom asked.

“Oh, nothing really.”  Jared replied.

He didn’t really want to bother his parents by telling them what he had experienced at the bridge, because they would just do their typical act of nodding without really listening to him.

Jared got ready for bed without talking to either his parent or his sister, who was sitting in the glow of her laptop.  Before leaving his room to go get a shower, he started his computer so it would be loaded and ready to go when he got back.

While in the shower, Jared felt as if someone was in the bathroom with him.  His shower took longer than normal because he kept on peeking out from behind the shower curtain to see if someone was there, but there never was.  He turned the water temperature to cold and let the water flow over his body, hoping it would calm his nerves.

After drying off and getting dressed in his pajamas, Jared went back into his room and started uploading the pictures that he had just taken.  Once they were loaded, he stared at each one for some time, searching for any hint of some ghostly apparition.  His mind raced when he got to the picture of the heart drawn in the powder.  What could he be trying to tell me?  He thought.  Does he love me or something?  An expression of disgust flashed onto his face as his mind filled with disturbing images.

Another image that puzzled him was the one of the words “Big Pine Tree.”  He searched his mind for any possible meanings to the words.  Perhaps he is trying to tell me that he lives near a big pine tree?  Jared thought.  But, after thinking about this for a moment, he couldn’t remember if he had actually seen any pine trees in the area.

Eventually the thought crossed his mind that if he sent the pictures to a newspaper, then he could possibly get famous.  If he used the pictures, and told people his story, maybe someone would want to make it into a film, or perhaps he could get on the show A Haunting.  He knew that the show was famous for attempting to recreate people’s paranormal stories, of course he had thought of it as a joke, but now he wasn’t so sure.  He had always dreamed of getting famous for something, but he never thought it could be for exposing ghosts.

 After giving the fame idea much thought, Jared came to the conclusion that this was the wrong way to go about it.  I can’t do that, he thought.  Getting famous from a ghost that is unable to move on is just wrong.

  He kept on thinking that this boy might be suffering, and just wanted to move on, but was unable to do so.

The images of the boy stuck in Jared’s mind.  His stomach began to ache.  It was almost like someone was grabbing and twisting his stomach, like the boy was trying to contact him.  He saw the boy when his eyes were either open or closed.  Something had to be done to rid himself of the boy, for the boy’s sake and for his.

That is when the idea entered Jared’s head that he should try to help the ghost move on.  Jared started looking on the internet for anything about ghosts.  He researched the topic for hours, looking at pictures, reading websites with general information and reading true stories that people had posted.  He was overwhelmed with information and haunting pictures.

He came across a story about ghost children in San Antonio.  They story seemed eerily similar to what he was dealing with.  According to the article, there are children that haunt a set of railroad tracks in San Antonio.  The article said that if someone stops their car on the tracks, the car will move itself-as if being pushed-off the tracks.  Some people have put baby powder on their bumper, only to find small finger prints in the powder after seemingly being pushed off the tracks.  This must be where the baby powder idea came from.

A common thing that he read on websites was that ghosts sometimes need help moving on.  Now Jared just had to figure out a way to help the ghost.

Jared began to think of ways that he could help the ghost.  One stupid idea that popped into his head was that he could burn the bridge down.  But he quickly realized that the idea was a bad one.

“What if I get caught?” he asked himself.  “I would get into a lot of trouble and it wouldn’t look good for my dad, that his son was arrested for burning a bridge down.  And I wonder if that would really help the ghost…”

He figured the best way to come up with an idea was to sleep on the situation.  Maybe I can work something out in my dreams?  He thought as he slid in between the sheets.

Jared spent the next day pacing back and forth in his room, letting any and all possible plans float around in his mind.  He only left when his mom called him down for dinner.  The family told each other about their day, except for Jared.  He sat unusually silent at the table and simply stared out the window, watching the sun as it crept its way behind the mountains, leaving the earth in darkness. 

While cleaning up after dinner, a thought came to him that made him stop clearing the table.  It was as though a door in his mind had been flung open and made everything clear.  Perhaps the whole story about locking your car doors on the bridge was made up to keep the boy from getting into any vehicles.

Jared quickly finished cleaning up and went over to the coat closet.  He pulled out his thin green coat and threw it on.  Then, he grabbed his truck keys off of the key holder next to the door.  He slipped out without telling anyone where he was going.

He pressed the button for the garage door and cringed as the door creaked open.  The engine of his truck roared to life.  A loud rumbling noise came from the truck as he stepped on the gas pedal and quickly backed out of the driveway.

As he pulled out on the main road that led to town, Jared thought he would call Todd to see if he would go to the bridge.

“Hey, man.”  Todd said when he answered the phone.

“Hey, how’s it going?”  Jared asked.

“Oh, pretty good.  How about you?”

“Not too bad.”

“That’s good,” Todd said lightly.

“I guess.”  There was a moment of silence between the two before Jared continued on, “Hey, so Margret is at work, and I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go to the bridge with me, because I have something I need to do.”

“Well…” Todd said nervously.  “You see, I’m over in State College right now.”

“Oh.  What in the hell are you doing there?”  Jared asked trying to mask his disappointed voice with humor.

“I’m at a comic book shop.  You remember that one we went to earlier on in the summer?”

“Oh yeah, I loved that shop.  Why didn’t you tell me you were going?  Maybe I could have come with you?”  Jared asked, shaking his head.

“I forgot, sorry,” he said anxiously.  “Michael brought up the idea of coming here because we were bored.”

“Yeah, me too,” Jared said allowing his disappointment to get the best of him.

“Call me tomorrow or something.  Maybe we can do something then?”

“Okay, I’ll talk to you later.”

“Alright, later, man.”

Jared couldn’t do anything more than shake his head as he put his cell phone in a cup holders.  Whatever, Jared thought.  Forget him. 

Jared drove through his town and the larger neighboring town.  It seemed a lot darker out in the country than when he was out there the previous night.  No house lights could be seen on the horizon.  The sky was blanketed in clouds and there was no way of seeing anything that wasn’t illuminated by his truck’s headlights.

After driving for about twenty minutes, Jared finally saw the sign for “Purple Heart Road.”  When he turned onto the road, his nerves caused a sudden sharp pain in his stomach, which was like a knife piercing into him.  He clutched his stomach with one hand, while steering with his other.  The road didn’t seem as bumpy as it was the night before, but it was just as dark as he remembered it.

The outline of the covered bridge appeared just down the road in the headlights.  As he approached, he saw what he thought was the same crow from two nights ago wandering along the side of the road.  It curiously watched as the truck slowly passed it by.

Jared pulled onto the bridge and turned the truck off, but he didn’t lock the truck doors.  He waited in silence for ten minutes, until, like last time, a tapping noise started at the back of his truck.  Jared listened to the noise as it made its way up the passenger side of the vehicle.  The rhythm of the tapping sounded like it was that of a song.  The light drumming stopped on the front passenger door.  Jared heard something fiddling with the door handle.  The door flew open and Jared was startled to see a small boy sitting in the seat next to him.

The boy had light brown hair and was wearing tan shorts with a red and white striped t-shirt.  He had no eyes, just two black pits in their place.  The boy’s small legs barely reached the cloth floor mat.  His tiny hands rested gently on the seat next to his body.  Jared stared at the boy in both horror and amazement, and he could feel his heart pounding hard in his chest.  The expression on the child’s face was completely void of any emotion.  The truck door slammed shut on its own, rocking the whole vehicle.  The temperature dropped so suddenly that Jared could see the breath coming out of him.  The boy disappeared before Jared’s eyes.

Jared turned his head to face forward.  The thought crossed his mind that he must have helped the boy.

“Well, now that I’ve pissed myself,” he said sarcastically to no one.

Suddenly, the boy appeared once again in the passenger seat.  The boy started bouncing in the seat and stretched out his arm and pointed towards the other side of the bridge.

“Okay,” Jared said hesitantly.  “I don’t know where you want me to go though.”  He looked the boy in the black pits where the eyes should be.  “You didn’t give me enough clues to work with.”

The ghost boy had a confused look on his face, and he pointed at Jared’s heart.

“What?  Are you talking about that heart you drew?”  Jared’s mind searched for any type of connection between the heart and the words “Big Pine Tree.”  Finally, when he figured out the clue, a calming wave came over his body and he felt stupid for not making the connection earlier.  “I get it now,” he said with a smile.  “You pulled my purple shirt last night over to the truck and drew a heart.  So, I need to look for a big pine tree on Purple Heart Road.”

The boy nodded and an eerie smile came across his face.  Jared twisted the keys and the truck roared to life.  He drove slowly through the rest of the bridge as the boy looked forward eagerly.  As they drove down the bumpy road, Jared searched along the roadside for a pine tree.

The truck went past the driveway that Michael had pulled into in order to turn around.  The outline of a house and a single large pine tree, probably the only one in the entire area, came into view roughly a hundred yards from the driveway.  As the house and tree came into view, the sky cleared up and Jared saw a full moon shining brightly among the stars.  As the truck rolled closer and closer still, Jared could see that the house was in terrible shape.

  From where he was on the road, Jared could just see that weeds covered the front yard.  It wasn’t until the truck pulled off to the side of the road, that Jared was able to get a better picture of the house.  The weeds had smothered a small shrub-looking plant and killed it.  A rotted front porch extended a few feet from the front door.  Several shutters were missing from the windows.  A few shingles were blowing in the breeze.  An old fence surrounded the yard.  A gravel walkway wound its way through a gap in the fence.  A rusted swing set was creaking by the side of the house.

“What a dump,” Jared said with a look of disgust.

He felt a slap on his arm and an almost unbearable coldness shoot up his spine.  He apologized to the boy, who had an angry expression on his face.  After hearing Jared’s apology, the boy grinned as if he accepted it.

The boy dissipated as Jared looking at his grinning face.  Once again, the passenger door flung open, and in the truck’s headlights, the boy reappeared.  He walked up the gravel path towards the house.  Jared could faintly see something moving on the wooden front porch of the house.  The boy stopped at the opening in the fence and stood still.  It seemed that he was watching the figure moving on the porch.

The figure finally stepped out of the shadow that was cast upon the porch.  A woman with short brown hair stepped into the moonlight.  She looked at the child with teary eyes.  They approached each other cautiously at first, but ended up running towards each other.  The woman-whom Jared assumed was the boy’s mother kneeled on the ground, her dirty looking kitchen apron lowered into the dirt, and the boy leapt into her arms.  Jared watched as they embraced one another for several long moments.

Trying not to make any noise, Jared gradually opened his door and stepped out onto the gravel that lined the side of the road.  He continued to watch as the boy hugged the woman.  The woman released the boy from her grasp and stood back on her feet.  She clasped the boy’s hand in hers and they both turned to face Jared.  With a smile that showed off all his teeth, he looked at Jared with gratitude.  He turned and again hugged the woman around her waist.  The boy and the woman slowly faded from Jared’s view.

A thin older man came stumbling, in his boxers, to the front screen door.  The door let out a long squeak as the man, loading a rifle, opened it and stepped onto the porch.

“Who’s there?” he asked as he put on his glasses and held the rifle up for Jared to see.

Jared put his hands out in front of him in hopes that the guy would see that he was unarmed.

“I swear I can explain,” Jared said with a crackly voice.  “Please, can you just lower the gun?”

“I guess I can give you a chance to try and explain why you are on my property,” the old man said as he rested the rifle over his left shoulder.

“As crazy as this is going to sound, I was led here by a little boy.”  He waited for the man to criticize him and ask where the kid went.

The old man scratched his balding head and chuckled nervously.  “The one from that bridge?”

Jared took a couple of steps forward.  “Yes, how do you know about him?”

“I heard some kids talking about him when I went into town a few years ago.”

“Do you know anything about the woman that was standing on your porch?” Jared asked.

“That was the boy’s mother.  The grief was too much for her after her dear son died, so she shot herself here on the porch.  She would never let me forget what I did to her all those years ago.  Every year, on the anniversary of the boy’s death, I would find a picture of him lying on the kitchen table.”  Jared could see tears glistening in the moonlight as he continued on.  “No matter how many times I threw that picture away, it would always appear the next year.”

The man’s words stuck in Jared’s head for a moment.  “Wait, are you trying to say that you killed her son?”

The man didn’t have to answer.  His head lowered and Jared could hear him lightly crying. “My best friend was that boy’s father.  When he went off to fight in the Vietnam War, I promised him that I’d watch after his family and his house.  I didn’t mean to hit his boy.  I was working two jobs at the time of the accident.  It was foggy that day, and I was fighting from falling asleep as I drove home.  The boy was only a few feet in the bridge, but by the time my car cleared the fog and I saw him walking, it was too late.  I never told anyone about it.  My friend’s wife was upset.  Her son was dead and she didn’t know how or why.  I couldn’t afford to fix the front of my car, so the dent was a constant reminder of what I did.  Eventually, the boy’s mother put it all together, I don’t know how though.  Maybe it was the dent, or maybe it was because I suddenly became very distant with her, but either way, she knew.  Just before she killed herself, she left me a note telling me how much pain and agony I had caused her.  I moved into this house after his wife committed suicide.  I figured that I already destroyed my friend’s family, so the least I can do now is watch after the house he had lived in.  At least I could protect something of his that he left behind.”

“What ever happened to the father?”

“He never returned,” the old man said.  “The news that my friend was M.I.A. just drove his family crazy with worry.  And it didn’t help that I killed his son.  I just hope that the whole family can now be at peace.”

“You don’t have to worry anymore.  I think they are at peace now,” Jared said, trying to comfort the man.

Jared got into his truck and drove back home.  He made up his mind that he would stop at Margret’s house and tell her a watered down version of the story.  Jared put all of the ghostly pictures into a private folder on his computer and never shared them with anyone else, even Margret.  Since that night, there have been no reports of a ghost haunting the covered bridge on Purple Heart Road.

A few days later, Jared felt his phone vibrating in his pocket while he was at work.  He hid behind a shipper and pulled his phone out to see who was calling.  He saw that Todd was calling, and quickly slipped the phone back into his pocket.  When he finished some of his work, Jared went into the bathroom and locked himself in.  He saw that Todd had left a voicemail for him.  Jared quickly typed in the password to his voicemail and listened to what Todd had to say.

“Hey,” Todd said sharply.  “I was just wondering why you haven’t called me like you promised.  I guess you don’t need friends or something.  You know whatever you want.  I found some people that actually need me and enjoy hanging out with me.  So, goodbye, I guess.”

What an a*s, Jared thought as he hung the phone up.

© 2013 Raleighwheels


Author's Note

Raleighwheels
I'm looking for any and all creative criticism for this.

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Well, just sat down and read this whole thing. You've done very well, and you ought to be proud of your work. You have a distinctive writing style and the concept for the piece was very intriguing and interesting. The ending was, as well, somewhat ambiguous which I think worked for your in this piece, since it left the audience wanting more.
My only criticism is that some of your phrasing is a little stilted and awkward in places, but if you go back and take a fair look at your work you'll probably catch most of that.
You've done very well with this piece. Good job.

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on February 16, 2013
Last Updated on April 25, 2013

Author

Raleighwheels
Raleighwheels

Selinsgrove, PA



About
I'm trying to get back into writing. I've been thinking of stories for years and have a large list of ideas down. I tend to write more horror and supernatural stories. more..

Writing
O Death O Death

A Story by Raleighwheels