Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Ghost · #1900604
Four people decided to go to Manchac Swamp on Halloween night. How many came out alive?
A Manchac Swamp Experience
The swamp came alive with sound, as gloomy shadows prevailed over daylight. In the distance stood an old, rustic, run-down shack, with a lone cross occupying a space next to it. Along the riverbank, a shadowy figure materialized out of nowhere. It drifted towards a burial ground where many crosses stood; graves of people who died long ago from a disaster. The wraithlike figure stopped and wailed out a warning... “Be ready, they’re coming!”
From beneath the ground, moans, groans, and screams answered her command. As the earth moved in unison with the cries of the dead, a stench of rotten eggs permeated the air. Satisfied that her fiendish plan was executed, the figure retreated and disappeared into the mists where a lone cross stood.
Lisa and Richard boarded the flight to Louisiana for their Halloween vacation. They wanted to spend time with their friends who invited them down to join them in New Orleans. “I'll take you on my favorite ghostly tour. You’ll love it.”
"What can it hurt?" Richard asked Lisa. "We are both workaholics, we need some excitement in our dull lives!" They booked a flight and here they were, on a plane to visit Rachael and Harvey. Lisa sat back and looked out the window at the beautiful, azure skies that showed no signs of bad weather. Sighing with relief, this was her first airplane flight; and thought this wasn't as bad after all. She closed her eyes and fell asleep while Richard read a book.
The plane made a smooth landing as it coasted to a stop near the terminal entrance. Lisa and Richard followed their fellow passengers down the steps and spotted Harvey's red hair waiting for them inside the terminal. Richard veered off to collect their luggage while Lisa walked over to give Harvey a hug; his smiling face was a welcoming sight. She petted his adorable Cocker Spaniel, Pepper, who licked her face in welcome.
“So, Harvey, what have you and Rachael been up to?” Kissing Pepper back, Harvey handed him over.
“We've updated our house and I’m proud to say it’s finished. Rachael stayed home to prepare a feast in your honor… Oh, here’s Richard now.” He walked over to help Richard with the luggage.
The guys walked ahead playing catch up while Lisa gave Pepper her full attention. Walking out the terminal doors, Harvey opened the door to his BMV for Lisa while Richard put their bags in the back, then climbed in.
"It's a thirty-minute drive so we should be there in a jiffy," Harvey smiled. Lisa perked up when they turned into the driveway and admired the beautiful landscape. Rachael was waiting for them. “Hi Lisa, Richard!” Giving them each a hug.
“Everything looks wonderful, Rachael! I love it!” Lisa gushed.
“Thank you, it took a lot of patience, but it’s finally finished to our satisfaction,” Rachael smiled. “Let me show you to your room so you can freshen up. Here we are.”
At that moment, Richard walked in with the luggage in tow and gave Rachael a thumbs up.
Rachael smiled, “Make yourselves at home and join us in the kitchen when ready.”
Lisa hung up their clothes while Richard sorted through his luggage to change into his favorite tee shirt. They took turns freshening up before joining Rachael and Harvey in the kitchen.
Lisa asked Rachael, “Do you need any help?”
“Harvey helped me set the table, so just sit down and rest, we’re having Linguine with Shrimp, Spinach salad, and Maple Berry Parfait for dessert."
“Wow, Rachael, that sounds delicious!” Lisa jumped up to help put the salad on the table.
Rachael waved Lisa to her seat and sat down. "Bon appétit.”
Throughout the meal, Harvey talked about the highlights of New Orleans, which tours he loved the most. “The Manchac Swamp is rumored to have Ghost, people have seen them, so...”
Lisa interrupted, “Did you say a swamp, with alligators, spiders, and snakes? This isn’t the tour you are taking us on, is it?"
Harvey winked at Lisa. “It's Halloween, you both came to have a good time, right?”
“Yes, we did!" Richard said. “I think touring the swamp sounds perfect.”
“That’s the spirit! Tomorrow night we’re touring the Manchac Swamp.”
Lisa sat silent. All she could think about were the alligators, poisonous snakes, spiders, and other creepy crawlers that are known to occupy swamps.
That night, Lisa dreamed about a large spider climbing into their boat. Having a phobia against these eight-legged creatures, her dream overdid their size. Even the smells of rotting bones invaded her nostril. Waking up, she wondered if this was a warning, a bad omen. She always had a second sight that warned her to beware.
At breakfast, Lisa talked about her dream. The men just smiled and shook their heads. When finished eating their pancakes, the men took off outside to get ready to go fishing for the day.
Rachael asked Lisa, “Want to go shopping? We can go to all the better shops in New Orleans, that should cheer you up.”
“Sure, I would love that,” Lisa said.
After a fun-filled, relaxing day, everyone ate a quick lunch and hurried to get ready for the swamp tour. Excited about what they would see, they climbed into the GMC and arrived at the swamp’s landing in record time.
Richard jumped out to help Harvey launch the boat into the water. While Harvey parked his truck, everyone else climbed aboard My Fair Lady. Rachael brought Pepper along, and he barked excitedly in her arms as she took a seat in the back. Lisa thought the middle was safer, so Richard sat down across from her. Harvey climbed in, started the motor, and they were off on their spooky adventure.
Lisa, who worked as a photographer for a Travel magazine, admired the beauty of the swamp as she took pictures of the gnarled, ancient cypress trees with their lacy, webbed-like moss hanging down. She had to admit, it looked romantic and very mysterious, so she sat back on the seat and relaxed.
When Harvey reached the wooded part of the swamp, he cleared his throat and began setting the stage for his story. “First, let me say that this swamp is known to be haunted.” When everyone groaned, he just smiled and continued. “Here’s how the story goes that created these sightings that people talk about. Back in 1915, a voodoo priestess lived here in the area over there… He pointed towards a rundown, rustic cabin, half hidden behind some cypress trees. "It's amazing it's still standing."
Straining to see, Lisa surveyed the area, and took a picture; then noticed a lone crooked cross nearby. Further along the channel, the swamp began to take on an eerie look as it came alive with sound. Harvey guided his boat by the many trees with webbed-like moss hanging off its limbs. This time they looked like huge spider webs to Lisa. Shivering at the thought, she tried to concentrate on what Harvey was saying.
“Julie Brown was her name and she owned much of the property around these parts. Over there a small village once stood, called Frenier, where most folks thought Julie was crazy. They knew she put a curse on these swamps, but some folks just ignored it. Julie was angry about her fellow sister witches being burned at the stake and cursed the area. “I doom this land and all who dare to enter.”
“So this swamp is cursed,” Lisa got a sudden chill. If Julie was a witch who cursed these swamps and died before she could retract it, that meant the curse was still ongoing. All the hairs on her arms stood at attention, and Lisa wanted out of there… now!
But Harvey kept on droning on, seeming to enjoy seeing Lisa squirm. He explained 'in detail' what happened so long ago. “Her neighbors passed by her home and spot her sitting on the front porch, singing this crazy song while playing her guitar… ‘One day I’m gonna die, and I’m gonna take all of you with me.’ Well, talking about her seeing the future, on September 28, 1915, Julie died… The next day, a Category 4 hurricane brought a thirty-foot tidal wave ashore and it wiped the entire village of Frenier off the map. Julie’s prediction came true.”
Harvey pointed to the many crosses that could be seen. “Most everyone who lived in Frenier back then is buried over there. Julie, though, was buried near her home. People say they spot her every now and then in this swamp, and some people reported hearing terrible screams and moans coming from those gravesites.”
Right after Harvey said that, fog began rolling in. Talk about a bad sign, this was it! Lisa could feel and hear the swamp come alive with many different sounds. Was that a moan? She spoke up, “We should turn back, Harvey.”
He nodded, his face ashen. He turned the boat around. Thank heavens! He's feeling what I’m feeling. Lisa breathed a sigh of relief. When they once again passed by the many crosses of the villagers, it seemed eerily quiet, as if they waited for something to happen. When Julie’s home came into view, the fog grew even thicker there. Lisa could barely make out the cabin let alone the cross where Julie was buried. Afraid to look away, she continued staring through the fog, then blinked. What was that? Did I just see a shadow move next to the cross?
Lisa yelled, “H-A-R-V-E-Y, GO FASTER!”
Pepper began barking like crazy, too. He stared at the same place where the shadow moved. When everybody glanced over to see what Pepper saw, the shadow disappeared into thin air. Numb from shock, Lisa closed her eyes to calm down and felt an icy chill throughout her body. Opening one eye, she wondered what was making her so cold; there, in front of her, sat the ghostly figure of … “Julie?” Lisa scooted back as far as she could go, trying not to look at that horrible image in front of her. Richard put his arms around her, trying to calm her. When Lisa got up the strength to look at the apparition, Julie bent closer and wailed out. “You’re - all - going - to – die - TONIGHT.”
Lisa gasped, trying to catch her breath, and collapsed against Richard.
“Honey, are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Didn’t you see her?” Lisa asked. “She sat right there, and wailed out a warning that we’re all going to die tonight.”
Richard and Harvey looked at her as if she lost her mind, only Rachael seemed to believe her. “Maybe we should get out of these swamps, Harvey, the sooner the better. I'm with Lisa, I don’t feel right about this anymore.”
Harvey worked the controls, and the boat zoomed ahead, but he still needed to take a stab at saving the night’s adventure. “Richard, did I ever tell you about this blood-sucking Rugaru? He’s the Cajun version of a werewolf? There have been sightings of such a creature in these parts, and people have been known to disappear without a trace. Sometimes, people would find dead, mutilated bodies floating in these very waters.”
Lisa, Rachael, and Richard all groaned, and turned to glare at him. Harvey smiled. “Sorry, I sometimes can’t help myself. What can I say in my defense, I love Halloween!”
“Yes Harvey, I’ve heard of the blood-sucking Rugaru,” Richard answered him. “There have been so many descriptions of this creature; some people describe it as a body of a man and a head like a wolf, Others have described him as bigfoot and then, some even claim that he’s an exact replica of a Wendi-go...”
“Yes and he roams these very swamps just looking for any unwitting victim to suck their blood dry. He will not stop until he finds his perfect someone. Who will be his next victim? Will it be you, you, you or maybe me?” Lisa interrupted, trying to shut them up, but only succeeded in scaring herself. Harvey laughed when he saw her visibly shake.
“Geez, I’m really beginning to dislike these trees, they're looking more and more like spider webs. How big do spiders get here?” Lisa asked.
“They do get huge!” Harvey responded.
Lisa's brow furrowed and remembered how she admire these moss-draped trees at the beginning of the tour. She wondered how far away the shoreline was. When Rachael gave a blood-curdling scream, Lisa's head whipped around towards the back of the boat. A large spider was climbing up the side of the boat as she dreamed. It wrapped its long legs around Rachael and sunk its fangs deeply into Rachael’s neck, the stench of its poison permeating the air. Blood was seeping down unto her white shirt was soaked, her eyes closed as she slumped down into her seat.
Harvey tried to make his way over to his wife, screaming bloody murder when he saw a large snake uncoiling himself from a branch above the boat, and wrapping itself around Rachael's body. He clung to his wife with all his strength, but the snake's weight pulled her overboard. The boat almost overturned, sending Harvey stumbling into the seat where his wife once sat. He was freaking out, crying noisily, and making loud, convulsive gasps, so Richard took over the controls and brought the boat under control. Lisa stood and sat beside Harvey, and tried to comfort him. She’d been screaming right along with him, but seeing this wasn’t helping him any, she quieted down. Pepper licked his master’s face, but Harvey barely noticed. Huge, bloated shapes began bubbling and popping out of the water, but Richard skillfully guided the boat around them.
Lisa trembled and felt cold from the fear she experienced while Harvey became withdrawn. Richard, a speedboat racer at one time, stayed calm and shoved the boat into full throttle, and found that he could go right through the apparitions that appeared in front of them. Seeing something in the water ahead of them that looked familiar, he slowed the boat, and as they drew near, he could see it was Rachael; her long blond hair floated around her beautiful face, and her dead eyes looked up at him. When Harvey noticed his wife, he jumped overboard to gather her up in his arms.
"No, Harvey, no!" Lisa screamed, but it was too late.
This was the last time Richard and Lisa saw their friends, because a crocodile came up, and pulled both of them under.
Pepper whined when he saw his owners disappear. Lisa picked him up and hugged him tight, preventing him from jumping in, too. Richard sped up the boat once more when noticing they were nearing open waters. The last thing Lisa saw as they left the wooded area was Julie, watching them fly past. Standing next to her were Rachael and Harvey, As Lisa kept looking back, Julie waved, and disappeared with Rachael and Harvey. Lisa knew all along the curse was alive and well, and now she knew she read the omen in her dream correctly. This realization made Lisa wonder how many more people will disappear in these murky swamps before Halloween night drew to an end.
Turning back around, Lisa sighed, praying to God for her friends to see the light. Yes, Richard and she escaped by the skin of their teeth and looked over at her husband. He looked grim but okay, and she hugged Pepper when he began to whine. Poor little guy, "You felt the terror, too." She felt shaken and weak, and as reality began to set in, Lisa's voice trembled. "W-we're going to be okay, aren't w-we?"
"Yes, Lisa, we'll be okay." But as they reached the shore, all they could do was sit there and stare at each other. It was a long time before they got out to pull the boat out of the water.
“How are we going to explain what happened to Harvey and Rachael?” Lisa asked, hugging Pepper when he whimpered.
“I don’t know, my mind is blank right now.” Richard stumbled back to the boat to pull the keys out of the ignition. "First, we have to load this boat unto the trailer. We can't leave it here."
Richard and Lisa's feet dragged as they walked over to Harvey's truck, knowing their troubles were far from over. Pepper also knew his life will never be the same as he looked around and whined for his owners.
Featured in Mystery Newsletter, November 3, 2021
Featured in Mystery Newsletter, December 7, 2021