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Scarsbarough

Short story by Grace Yemma-Tschumper

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Scarsbarough

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“Please, I swear I’ll be quick!”

“Dina I am not turning around to that rest stop.  We are less than an hour away, can’t you hold it?”

“Pull over somewhere, I’ll pee on the side of the road like a savage,”  Dina sneered.  Jace rolled his eyes and stopped the car along the side of the road.  Water splashed under the tires.  “Not here!  Jace, would you look at that tunnel!”

“What about it?”

“Look at it!”  They each glanced at the dilapidated tunnel, that was littered with graffiti and loomed over an eerie pool of water.  Two steep hills surrounded it on either side, blocking the light of the moon.  “You can’t possibly have me do my business-”

“The tunnel isn’t going to hurt you, Dina.”

She huffed.  “Fine but if I’m murdered I blame you!”  Jace sighed and unlocked the doors.

Dina jumped out and left Jace to wait for her, he listened to the water slosh as she walked to the dry ground.  He tapped his foot impatiently.  What was supposed to be a romantic weekend away was tainted by their constant bickering.

Jace rubbed his temples.

The engine sputtered suddenly and everything turned off.  Jace took out his key and jabbed it into the ignition.  Nothing.  He took the key out again and the car roared to life.

The headlamps lit up the darkness and the engine polluted the air with its aggressive snarl.   Jace jumped back and brought his hands away from the steering wheel.  A figure started to approach the car.  The silhouette was too far and the night too dark for Jace to make out its features.  

It came slowly at first and then, as if startled, sprinted the rest of the way to the car.  As the figure was coming into focus the car’s lights went out and darkness engulfed the vehicle.

Jace whipped his head around and squinted his eyes to try and make out anything in the gloom.  He could hear nothing over the motors loud hum.  Suddenly something slammed into the car’s passengers side window.  Jace started and locked the doors.

“Jace you idiot, let me in!”  Dina’s voice echoed in his ears.  He let out a breath and wiped his hands on his pants.  He had acted foolishly.  He pressed the button to unlock the doors.  Jace waited for the familiar click signaling that the doors had been unlocked.  It didn’t come.  “Jace come on!  It’s really dark and I think I hear something.”

“Dina this isn’t me!  The car, Dina, it has a mind of its own!”  Jace slapped the windows and continued to frantically push the button.

“Oh very funny,”  she said sarcastically.  “Open damn the doors Jace!”

“Dina I swear I can’t!  The car- it’s been turning itself on and off and-”

“I can’t believe you!  This isn’t funny!  You know what- forget this trip.  Open the doors and bring me home!”

Jace turned his focus to the lock on his door, yanking it up with all his strength.  “No, I promise it’s not me!”

Dina pounded on Jace’s window.  “Jace!”  Her beating became more frantic.  “Jace please I-I see somebody.  Jace open the doors!”  Dina sobbed.  “Please Jace, I’m sorry I asked you to stop, please!  Please!”  Jace pulled the lock with supernatural strength yet it still didn’t budge.

Dina’s “please”s were broken off by a scream.  The car reanimated and the terrifying darkness was illuminated. The light revealed a shaking Dina with tears flooding down her face, dribbling to the greenish grey hand that clamped her mouth shut.  It belonged to the slight figure that stood threateningly behind her.  All Jace could do was stare.

He sprung into action when the shadow started to drag Dina away towards the tunnel.  Jace battered his window screaming after his love.  Tears welled in his eyes.  His heart clenched. The skin on his knuckles broke from the continuous impact and his window smeared with crimson.

Dina thrashed and sent violent ripples through the water. They got closer and closer to the eerie tunnel and Jace- not wanting to take his eyes off Dina-  searched blindly for something to break the windshield.

He threw manuals and his shoes at the glass, but nothing prevailed.  He regretted putting their suitcases in the trunk instead of the back seat.

Dina’s assailant had almost disappeared behind the brick face of the ominous tunnel- before it stopped.  Jace froze.  The silhouette released the girl and stalked away.  Jace let out a wry chuckle.  He clutched onto the door handle and attempted to yank it open.  It refused.  Jace cursed loudly and looked back up to Dina.  She only stood there, a faint outline in the ebony night.

He looked at her puzzled.  She stood as still as a building.

The car flickered out.

Then it burst to life.

The engine revved and the tires spun forward.

“No,”  Jace cried.  He repeated the word, each time it left his lips it became more desperate.  He fiddled with the car, trying everything he could think of to hinder its movements.  Even the emergency brakes failed.  The vehicle gained speed and launched forward.

Jace stared, terrified, as Dina rapidly came into focus.  Her expression was shocked, scared, betrayed.

The car hit, and Dina was flung backward.  It then halted and a click echoed, telling Jace he was free to leave.  He ignored the part of his brain that told him to drive as far as he could, as fast as he could, and lept out of the car.  He fell to his knees and searched for Dina in the filthy water.

He felt something brush against his hand and he clutched onto it.  He brought it to the murky surface and his stomach flipped.  In his hand, he saw a severed foot of a child.  Jace dropped the foot and keeled over.  He retched into the already putrid pond.

Something large bobbed up to the surface three feet in front of Jace.  He rushed over, grabbed the body, and flung it over his shoulder.  He brought it to dry land and checked it’s pulse.  He was met with nothing.  Jace bent over her and sobbed.

He brought his hand to her lifeless face and peeled her hair away.  Jace jumped back.  It wasn’t Dina.  He scrambled away from the rotting corpse and jumped back into the water to find her.

In the water, he found body after body, and enough parts to put together twenty soldiers.  When Jace finally found her he cried out in joy and started to haul her out of the pool.

He knew he must have been too late but he tried everything in his power to resuscitate her anyways.  He finally gave up.  Jace spun over and collected her close to his chest.  She smelt of death but he still brought his face to her neck and kissed her. Jace slid a small velvet box from his pocket and opened it to reveal a ring that glittered even in the pitch blackness.

“Dina,” Jace croaked.  He took her hand and slid the engagement ring onto her finger.  He placed a kiss on her fingers and stroked her hair.  He frowned as he pulled his hand away.  Wrapped around his fingers was a thick lock of her hair.  He brushed his fingers through it again and more hair came with.  He looked at her in horror.

Her skin started to grey and tightened around her bones.

Jace screamed and scurried away from Dina.  He rushed as fast as he could to his vehicle.

He tripped on something in the water and fell,  hitting his head on the hood of his car.  He flung to the surface, his breathing heavy and rapid.  Something was wrapped around his ankle.  A head emerged from the water.  Its eyes were white and foggy, it’s grey skin hugged tightly onto its skeleton.  It’s nose and lips looked as if they made been melted off.  Its long black hair was in patches on its scabbed skull.  Jace screamed and tried to push away.  Something underwater held him in place.  Jace thrashed and tried to get free.  The thing hissed and another head broke the surface.

One by one the creatures arose. Some were missing eyes or had them hanging sickly from their sockets, and some still had clothes hanging loosely from their unnaturally tiny frames.  Jace raised his foot from the water and saw an adolescent creature clutching to his ankle.  It was missing a foot.

Jace cried out.  He knew there wasn’t going to be anyone to come and help him.  He was on his own. But still, he foolishly cried for anyone who could possibly have taken a wrong turn like he and Dina had done only an hour ago.

His shin flared with excruciating pain.  Jace yelped and shook the child whose jaws were clamped tightly onto his leg.  Jace went to hit the child but a creature from behind held his fist, and another took the babe and set it down as if it were its own.  It made Jace’s stomach churn to see something so maternal and familiar in such a wretched setting.

As if on cue they all jumped into action and grabbed any part of Jace’s body they could.  Through the ruckus, he could see from a distance Dina’s body bending and twisting in a sickeningly jerky manner.  She snapped her attention onto Jace’s thrashing body and stalked over to him.

The other creatures dug their bony fingers into his skin and held him in place.  What used to be Dina, crawled up to Jace.  She looked at him thoughtfully for a second with her dead cloudy eyes and raised a hand to his face.  Jace flinched at her touch.  She placed her other hand to his other cheek.

He looked at her sadly.  “Dina?”

She sputtered something as if she was trying to speak.  Jace looked at her questionably.  She made the same sounds again, an attempt to tell him something.

“What is it, Dina?”  Jace asked softly.

Dina, frustrated took her fingers and pushed them into Jace’s flesh.  He cried out and looked at the creature before him with renewed revulsion.  The other monsters did the same and their fingers cut through his skin.  It felt like a thousand dull knives.  The water around him became even darker.

Dina’s fingers entered Jace’s mouth on both sides and she folded them together.  She gripped onto his cheeks and pulled at them with incredible force.  Jace screamed as his skin ripped from his face.  The other creatures didn’t hesitate to follow suit.

 

Melanie felt a sharp push from behind and she fell to the bottom of the hill.  Water soaked her pants.  She looked up to the crest of the hill and glared at her friends who laughed.

“You guys that isn’t funny,”  Melanie growled.

Hale laughed.  “Careful Mel, it’s the Scarsbarough Tunnel!” she mused and turned to give Jordan a high five.

Melanie gagged.  The water smelt like death and the hot afternoon sun only accentuated it.  She looked around at the familiar marshy area.  This tunnel was subject to countless tales and stories. To Melanie, they were nothing more than campfire anecdotes.  But when gossip spread through her school of an abandoned car left in the murky water last night, Melanie got a group of friends to leave school and investigate.  

The car in question was nowhere to be seen.  

Melanie looked back up to the hill and cursed.  They had ditched her.  “Some friends you are!” she yelled after them.   “I sure know how to pick ‘em don’t I,” she muttered to herself.

She started up the steep hill.  A splash made her turn around.  In the middle of the pool stood two monsters eerily human-like.  Melanie screamed and hurried as fast as she could up the hill.  With only a couple feet left to go, her foot slipped and she plummeted down into the murky pool.

Bony hands clutched onto her.  She thrashed and screamed hoping her friends would come back and help her.  The two creatures -who had appeared first- stalked towards her, hand in hand.  One was smaller than the other and had an engagement ring on its finger hanging loosely, it’s knuckle the only thing keeping it from falling off.  Together they each placed a hand on one of her cheeks.

They had always wanted a daughter.

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Scarsbarough