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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Nature · #2235381
Returning home can introduce fond memories along with horrific tragedies.
Incident at Owl Creek



"So Jack, do you know where we are? I can't see shit through all this rain," Celine asked.

"Yep, I'm sure. Remember, I grew up out here. My entire family knows this place. We just have to take it slow for the moment. Sometimes the storms in western Missouri get real bad, and it looks like we found one. That's all."

"So where are we?"

"You know you can check on your phone, right? It would be quicker."

"I know, but you said you know where we are. So tell me where we are."

"Dammit! Okay. I saw a sign about five miles back that said Owl Creek Township was fifty miles away. As long as we stay on this road, it will take us directly there. We'll have to cross the bridge over Owl Creek, and if it weren't for all this rain, you'd be able to see it through the windows. I told you I know this road. I grew up out here. Now can you hold off with the questions? I'm trying to concentrate on the road."

"Okay! Okay! Sorry! It's just that I've never seen it rain so hard. Um...Jack? I have one more question."

Jack sighed, then took a deep breath. "What?"

"If the rain comes down any harder, can we pull over and wait for it to slow down a little?"

It made sense. Jack wasn't used to seeing this much rain either. The weather outside Reno was one-hundred-eighty degrees difference than the weather in Missouri. It was one of many reasons he went to school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He'd witnessed all types of storms, including a few tornados. After a close friend of his died during a tornado outbreak, he'd had enough.

"Sure. If it gets any harder, I'll pull over. I have to admit, I'm not used to seeing this much rain either." He removed his right hand from the steering wheel and grasped her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I'll make sure we get there in one piece."

"Thank you, sweetheart."

He gripped the steering with both hands again and kept his eyes on what was left of the road. The yellow dividing stripes on the road were difficult to see. He guessed he could see between twenty-five to fifty feet in front of him. It would be awhile before they reached his parent's home.

He knew getting that unexpected late night phone call last week from his mother was trouble. His father had been ill for some time as dementia devoured a lifetime of precious memories. He wasn't sure if his father would even recognize him once they arrived. Celine's questions and thoughts of his father weighed on him, along with this damn rain.

It wouldn't be long before they hit the Owl Creek Bridge. A lifetime of memories were locked away in that bridge. He was with his father at the bridge when he caught his first fish, a small mouth bass. It was the first time his father ever took him fishing, too. He could still visualize his father's toothy grin, how he helped get the hook out the fishes mouth, then place it on a stringer with the rest of the catches. It was a glorious memory. Plus, there were so many more with his childhood buddies. They all loved fishing at Owl Creek.

A familiar bend in the road was up ahead. He recalled that the right-side of the road dipped and had a tendency to fill with rain water. He eased on the brake as he navigated the bend. A soft roar coated the underbelly of the SUV and a shower of water succumbed the right headlight. From the corner of his eye, he saw Celine rear back. "It's okay. I knew that was going to happen. It always does when it rains." She eased back down but he could tell her fear was very present.

The rain kept coming down. He thought he'd be out of it by now unless both he and the storm were traveling in the same direction. That would suck! The rhythmic metronome sound of the windshield wipers on high-speed didn't help to put his mind at ease. He refused to turn on any music so he could hear all the noise the SUV made while driving, but the soft clunk...clunk...clunk of the wipers was annoying.

Soon, he spotted the sign which read "Owl Creek Bridge-Two Miles". Thank God for the sign's reflecting white letters. And that's when he realized the rain had eased up! It's just what he needed right then. His destination wasn't far away.

Suddenly, a nasty thought popped in his head. What if the creek flooded? Would the bridge be impassible? He remembered it happening before, and it was not fun at all. Everyone in the township was forced to stay at home with no way to get groceries or gas since it was the only road in and out of the tight-knit community.

Then Jack's eyes widened. The wipers continued clearing away the light sprinkle of rain, but the road seemed to disappear. In its place was a ghostly glow illuminated by the headlights.

"Shit!" he said after bringing the vehicle to a stop.

"What? What's wrong?" Celine asked with her stressed voice.

"I forgot about the fog. The temperature of the creek must still be cold from the winter thaw, and with the temperature being so warm right now, the fog was inevitable. Dammit!"

"Well, can't we just stay here until it goes away?"

"Not really. It may last all night. Do you want to sleep in here overnight?" Her reluctance to answer confirmed what he thought she'd say. The only thing left to do is push ahead at a snail's pace. He was so close, but no cigar.

He eased his foot off the brake and let the engine move the vehicle forward. The glow reflecting from the fog hid the road. He stopped again, turned toward Celine, and said,

"Look, I want to try something just to see if it will work."

"Try what?"

I'm going to turn off the headlights and use the fog lights only. I might be able to see the road. I can't see it now with the headlights on."

"I don't think that's a good idea. I don't think it will work."

"Well, I'm going to try. If it doesn't, I'll turn the headlights back on again." She spun her head forward, smacked her lips, and pouted. Not something he needed right now.

He switched off the headlights, and the yellowish-orange glow from the fog lights lit the thick mist. He sat still for a moment and allowed his eyes to adjust. He caught a faint glimmer of the road's center stripe. He leaned over the steering wheel and eased his foot slowly off the brake, making sure he could follow the stripe. He eased off the brake a little more but never took his foot away. It's working!

He glimpsed at the speedometer, and his heart sunk. His speed varied between two and five miles per hour. Am I ever gonna get that cigar? Nevertheless, they were making progress. The sound of Celine's deep breathing affected his speed. It was obvious she was scared, but that was not his intention. He wanted to make her feel as safe as he could. If her breathing became too loud, he'd slow down.

The sound of the wipers got on his nerves, so he adjusted their speed to the lowest setting. Although they made progress, driving in that position wore on both his body and mind. Every once in a while, the yellow stripe disappeared causing his heart to thump wildly. He made slight adjustments right and left until the stripe reappeared. Celine's breathing became louder whenever he was forced to perform the maneuvers, but she said nothing, much to his relief.

He guessed the bridge was very close now. He'd know he was on the bridge once the tires crossed the steel plate that connected the bridge to both sides of the creek. There would be a small dip right before that. He recalled riding his bike through the dip and jumping onto the bridge, trying not to steer into its steel girders. Boy, it was fun back then.

A very faint sound caught his ear. A familiar sound he thought he'd heard before. He listened and noticed that Celine heard it too. He glanced over at her and she was already staring at him. Both remained silent as they listened. The sound increased but didn't overwhelm the sound of the engine.

Jack gazed through the driver-side window to see if he could see anything. Nothing.

"Jack! Stop!" Celine shouted.

"No, not yet. Let's keep going. We'll discover what it is."

"Please stop! PLEASE!" Jack turned and saw tears rolling down her cheeks.

The vehicle lurched, then lurched some more. He hit the brake, but it felt like they were still moving, but not in a straight line. The vehicle yawed and pitched. Jack became disoriented, so he stepped on the gas. The engine roared, but there was no forward motion. A wave of water rushed over the hood of the vehicle. He could only see the yellow glow of the fog lights fading in and out. Celine grabbed his arm and squeezed.

Jack hit the headlights. The fog reflected the light back to them while more waves breached the vehicle's hood. A horrific thought entered his mind right when the vehicle seen to crash into something on his side. Now, water pounded the vehicle, and it rocked from side to side.

"We're in Owl Creek!"

Celine screamed, and Jack held her. They were helpless. Debris from the flooded creek slammed into the vehicle, and Celine screamed each time it lurched to the left. Jack could feel his feet in cold water. He knew at that moment, they might not make it. He pulled Celine up from his arm to say he was sorry and confess his love for her.

A massive broken branch crashed through the passenger-side window, sliced through Celine's neck, and slammed into Jack's face.


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