As you may notice, this is #StitchedSaturday … on a Sunday! Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. For this week we did a surprise prompt and gave the writers who dared, only a few hours to come up with a story. This exercise helps us think on our feet and challenge creativity. Without further ado, here are the brave souls who entered. Please continue to encourage them by “Liking” and “Commenting” on our posts. Tell us who your faves are, there are prizes involved for them!
The Dark Arch
By Thomas R Clark
They call it the Dark Arch, that part of route 13 on the Oxbow. Some say its haunted, with dark spirits feeding on the unwary foolish enough to answer their banshee calls. And some folks, the smart ones, they don’t talk about it at all.
Like most roads in upstate New York, Rt. 13 was an old deer trail, weaving through the path of least resistance in the rugged hills of the Oneida Valley. The lanes along this expanse of the country highway were bordered by aged apple orchards. Twisting and turning like the road itself, the tree tops mingled and married high above. The branches snaked through the cables and wires carrying electricity along, creating a preternatural tunnel of wood and shadow.
Cresting to the top of a hill with a steep incline from north to south in each direction, the phenomenon covered a half mile of highway. Each end of the curious tunnel saw sharp ninety degree turns. As a result, the road hosted its fair portion of misfortune through the decades. From alcohol influenced moments of poor decision making, to weather related accidents out of the control of those involved, the road knew death. It’s natural, then, the locals would whisper about the souls of the lives lost on the road, trapped in their final moments, forever.
Most scoffed at the notion the main thoroughfare in southern Madison County was haunted. A traveler late at night may beg to share a differing opine. They may tell you a preposterous tale. Its elements including a wayward woman in a gown of white. She would be found wandering near one or the other exit from the Dark Arch. She beckons those traveling her way, a herald of bad things to come. Of all the tragedies, real or legendary, to malady this length of highway, none was more notorious than the Bride of Thirteen Curves. They say she spent her honeymoon there.
The wolf moon hung high in the fall sky. It cast its glow across the valley, a blanket of silver spreading over the miles of rolling hills. Doug “Smitty Smith pushed his Trans Am down the curves of the rural highway. The speedometer read eighty-five and was tipping toward ninety as he passed a white and black SPEED LIMIT 55 sign. A yellow caution to SPEED LIMIT 35, complete with an arrow bent at a hard ninety degrees, indicated a sharp turn was imminent. It was one of the two ‘Thirteen Curves,’ the infamous pair of sharp turns on Rt. 13.
Smitty relished taking this corner at top speed, drifting into the left lane. He watched for headlights from the opposite direction, saw none, and sank back into his bucket seat. He gunned it, cranked the wheel hard right, and let inertia carry the sports car around the bend. Adrenaline rushed into his veins as centrifugal force sent extra blood to his head. Driving fast was a rush.
Ahead of him, the twisted trees of the Dark Arch rose on the horizon. He flicked on his high beams as the car entered the tunnel. The crooked trees bent the light, casting shadows on the road. The speed of the Trans Am animated the shadows as the car propelled up the steep hill. Smitty’s peripheral vision watched demonic Rorschach ink splotches transforming and morphing along the way. The ascent took a matter of seconds.
The car reached the apex of the hill. Smitty felt his ears pop as the sports car started the descent. He took his foot off the gas, the car’s speedometer raised, nearing ninety-five. His heart rate increased, feeding his body endorphins. A wisp of fog flew past the car, then another invaded the road, this one longer. Soon the road was covered by a sheen of mist. The high beams reflected off the fog, shining his lights back at him. Smitty clicked back the brights, and the glare fell to the road.
He saw the woman’s legs first. They were clearly visible in the lights under the fog. He flicked the high beams back on, looking for the rest of the person. Instead he was greeted with a blinding flash as the brights met a wall of murk. He flicked them back down, and saw her, clearly on the side of the road. It was a woman in a white wedding gown. Long blonde hair fell off her shoulders, a veil covered the features of her face.
“Holy shit! It’s true!” He said to himself, enamored with the vision before him. Before was the Bride of Thirteen Curves. She was tinier than Smitty was led to believe. He stared at the woman, admiring her beauty. He watched as she removed her veil, blinked her bright blue eyes, and blew him a kiss with a flick of her wrist. He watched her in his side mirror as he streaked past her. She waved as he passed.
What Smitty didn’t see was curve two of the Thirteen Curves. His Trans Am hit continued straight when the road turned left. A deep embankment, sliding down some twenty yards to a creek greeted him on the other side. This was separated from the road by a high tension cable guardrail. Built to withstand nine thousand pounds of pressure, the guard rail was designed to bend and move with the impact. A car or truck hitting it at a side angle would push it out of the ground up to eight feet.
Smitty heard the car screech as it ripped into the wire barrier, head on. The speedometer now read over a hundred miles per hour. The steel cable cut through the fiberglass and steel frame of the sports car. Time slowed. Smitty looked in the rear view mirror. He saw the Bride, still standing behind him, watching the events unfold. Her mouth was open wide, and he could swear the screaming he heard came from her. It came from the car.
Inertia propelled the car forward. A pair of two inch thick braided steel cables burst through the car’s engine, chassis and the steering column. Smitty was still turned around, watching the Bride beckon him. She held her hand out, waiting for some reciprocation. He found himself reaching out. The cables cut into Smitty, ripping through his sternum and diaphragm, trisecting him in his seatbelt. He never felt it. The car burst into flame as the cables punctured the half full gas tank, blowing the pieces of the Trans Am down the embankment, into the pine and birch trees below.
The Bride of Thirteen Curves watched as another suitor passed her by, not heeding her warning. Fire lit the night, a beacon to others. In response, she wailed, lamenting another loss. She lifted her veil, stepped back into the shadows, and waited for the next to come through her dark bridal arch.
The road seems endless, as it leads through these horrifying trees. I feel the oppressive weight of evil upon my soul. I cannot let the dread take control of me. Each step becomes more difficult, as if mired in mud. Finally I can walk no further, sinking to my knees on the road. Looking up in horror at the trees, dancing as though in a veritable hurricane but feeling no wind. I see them moving toward the road, and the scream threatening to break the silence stays within my lungs, my mind stunned by the visions my eyes are seeing.
There are…things…in the branches. Things…hanging from the branches. But…there are no ropes…only branches. As if…no. This cannot be! Dear God! The trees are…
I try to stand, even as I feel the branch wrap around my neck. I try to get my feet to run, but they are no longer touching the ground. As my vision starts to fade, the trees are no longer moving, the road solidifies beneath my feet, and I slowly fade out of existence, only to realize that I am now completely gone…until the next fool takes the road less traveled, and the cycle is reborn…
2 thoughts on “Stitched Saturday 1/26/19”
This was my rendition of a classic, local legend…
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All of these were extremely entertaining, but I have to give this to the very first one by Tom Clark. What an eerie, effective spin on a dark folktale!
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