Disclaimer: There is some profanity used in this story. This is your forewarning. Thanks for reading!
Written by J. Marie Ravenshaw
Emily leaned forward so she could get a better look at Jason in the driver’s seat. “Are you kidding me? That was a fricken’ awesome movie!” She glanced back at Tim, “I know
the big burly men don’t agree with me…” She risked a glance my way and rolled her eyes in exasperation, then smiled as she said, “But you do…I know you
agree with me Beth.” She gestured to Jason’s hands gripping the steering wheel, the tell tale half moon shapes decorating the backs of them, “I mean, you practically broke his hand and drew blood with those crazy ass nails of yours.”
I rolled my eyes and lightly nudged Jason’s thigh, “Yeah I agree with her Jay, it totally freaked me out. Especially at the end, when she threw the dude at the camera. That….that just…ugh!” I shuddered, rubbing my arms trying to stave off the goose bumps that would surely follow.
Biting my lip, I looked up at him, “So…um…You are walking me to my door, right Jay?”
He chuckled under his breath and looked toward me, “Yeah, I’ll walk ya’ to the door. No worries.”
I sighed and slid closer to him, wrapping my arms around his muscular arm and cuddling into his warmth. He flexed his arm for me, “Mmm, so strong,” then in my best southern belle accent- which wasn’t very good- I said, “I just know you’ll be ma’ knight n’ shinin’ armor should the need arise.”
I leaned in to kiss him on the cheek but he turned so that I kissed him on the lips instead. It lasted a little longer than I intended it to, especially since he was driving but…his lips were so soft and he was such a good kisser.
Both Tim and Emily yelled in unison from the backseat, “Get a room!”
I broke our kiss and glared back at them.
“Oh Shit!” Jason slammed on the brakes, putting his arm out to keep me from flying into the dash. We all lurched forward. Emily slammed into the back of the seat. Tim had a firm grip on the ‘Oh shit’ handle above his door and his other hand braced against the drivers seat.
We rocked back as the car came to a complete stop. I glanced up at Jason’s profile. He looked horrified; his eyes were widened, showing too much white, and his breathing was way too fast. My heart was pounding so hard; it was as if it would beat right out of my chest. I slowly turned my head toward what he was looking at. It was like in the movies, when the victim knows the killer or monster is right behind them. Well, in our case, the horror was directly in front of us.
Emily’s screams from the backseat shook Jason from his daze. He slammed the car into reverse; put the pedal to the metal, making the tires squeal. I lurched forward, and would have hit the dash if Jason’s arm hadn’t magically appeared in front of me once again.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Emily repeated. I glanced back over the seat toward her, a look of shock no doubt plastered across my face. She was sitting on the floorboards, knees to her chest, as she rocked back and forth with her palms covering her ears.
Tim leaned over the seat yelling, “Go! Go! Go!”
“I am! I am!” Jason did a very fast ‘K’ turn and slammed the car into drive. He curled himself around the steering wheel and yelled, “Buckle up Beth!” as he gunned it out of the dirt driveway leaving a cloud of dust in our wake.
I didn’t hesitate. I quickly slid over to my seat and buckled up. My hands were shaking so bad, it’s a wonder I could even get that done. I could hear Tim trying to console Emily, “C’mon baby, get up in the seat. Let’s get you buckled.” I turned around to watch Tim drag Emily up from the floorboards and settle her in the seat. She was shaking her head repeatedly.
I shivered. I couldn’t believe what we had just seen. It just wasn’t possible. “Jay, what the hell was that?”
Keeping his eyes glued to the road, he said, “I dunno babe, all I know is we are getting the hell outta’ here.”
“That, my friend, was some messed up shit!” Tim said from the backseat. “I heard the stories…but…well, I didn’t believe ‘em. Let’s just say I’m a firm believer now.”
Jason chuckled sarcastically, shaking his head, “Me too.”
“What stories?” I asked as I looked between the two of them. Tim opened his mouth to answer me, but then his eyes shifted to the windshield and widened. He mouthed, “No way.”
Jason started to slow down and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me! No fucking way!”
Emily whimpered and curled into the corner, pressing herself against the door. “She’s gonna kill us. We’re not goin’ home tonight. Nobody sees her and lives.”
“Emily! Shut the fuck up!!” Jason bellowed from the front seat.
“What the hell are you guys talking about?” I avoided looking out the windshield. I didn’t want to see her again; it was bad enough the first time.
Jason’s eyes shifted to the rearview, “Timmy…what do we do?”
“Hell if I know Jay.” He seemed to think for a bit as he looked down at his hands. He looked up and leaned forward, “Go through the hag!”
Jason nodded, his jaw tightened in determination. His hands clenched the steering wheel, so much so, that his knuckles whitened.
I looked back and forth between the two of them, “No Jay! Don’t do this!”
Timmy glanced at me briefly, “Why the hell not? She’s a fucking ghost Beth. She’s just trying to scare us.”
I finally dared to look out the windshield. There she stood, motionless. Her graying, tattered robe settled around her body and pooled onto the ground. Her stringy black hair covered her face showing brief glimpses of her pale white skin. She just stood there, looking as solid as you or I. “How do you know she’s a ghost?”
He rolled his eyes, “You have got to be kidding me! Go Jay!”
Jay slammed his foot down on the accelerator. I braced myself; my eyes glued to the small figure in front of us as we came ever closer.
The hag threw her head back and rose into the air, her robes ignited; flames licking her skin and blackening it. Her hair and robes floated in the air surrounding her, making her look like a fiery wraith. She raised her arms and lowered her head; her blackened eyes glittering in the flames as she focused in on the car barreling toward her.
She swept her arms down in one quick movement. My stomach dropped as the car quickly flew off the ground. For a split second, that seemed like an eternity, all I could see were the stars in the sky. The seemingly endless black of the pavement came into view as we crashed back down to the ground. My body jerked in the belt, the sound of rending metal, screams from the others, the unmistakable sound of breaking glass. My head hit the dash, exploding pain, and then…nothing.
~ ~ ~
I jerked awake to a shrill scream and a scraping sound that trailed off. Emily. It felt as if everything was moving in slow motion. I slowly turned my head to see Jason hanging in his seatbelt, his arms outstretched above his head, blood dripping from his head onto the roof of the car. I couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not, nor could I see his pulse jumping in his neck.
I couldn’t really move. I squirmed a bit, but I was still buckled into the seat and hanging just like Jason. I wiped at the blood dripping into my eyes. There was a hissing sound, liquid heavily dripping onto the pavement, and the unmistakable acrid scent of gasoline wafting into my nostrils. The smell alone made my heart start to race. My breathing hitched as I desperately tried to unbuckle the belt. It was useless, I couldn’t reach the latch.
I reached toward Jason and clutched at his shoulder, “Jay! Jay! Oh please wake up baby!”
A groan came from behind me. I tried to look toward it, but couldn’t, “Timmy? That you?”
A gasp and a gurgling breath answered me.
I turned back to Jason, “Jay! Please wake up!” I shook him, “Wake up! Please, oh, please wake up!”
The swish of heavy skirting made me turn to look out the broken windshield.
She just stood there, as she had before Jay tried to run her down. Her gray tattered robe looked no different than it did before she went up in flames. I inhaled loudly and struggled in my bounds. I closed my eyes, not wanting to give up, but not seeing any way of escape.
I exhaled and muttered under my breath, “Why?”
An unfamiliar voice echoed in my head, Because I can. My eyes shot open as the hag ignited, lighting a trail of gasoline leading directly to the car.
~ ~ ~
The flicker of red and blue light from the emergency vehicles lit the woods surrounding the scene. “Four dead this time.” Sergeant Harris shook his head in dismay as he eyed the smoldering remains of the Beretta, “Tis’ a damn shame.”
CSI Greeley knelt next to the passenger side door, peering inside at the blackened remains, “Too true. It’s an odd scene, this one.”
“What makes it so odd?”
Greeley stood, turned, and met Harris’ stare, “It doesn’t seem as if they were avoiding anything. Matter of fact, seems as if they were going toward something quite fast.” He gestured down the road where tiny little crime scene markers littered the asphalt, “Burnout right down there indicates heavy acceleration.” He turned back to the overturned car, jerking his head toward it, “and then….this. It’s an odd scene. I know I can’t explain it. I don’t even know what to put in my report.”
Sergeant Harris nodded, “Well, some things are just unexplainable.”
Officer Carron, a newbie on the force, and the man who initially responded to the scene asked, “Hey Sarge! Some of the guys mentioned this stretch of highway to me. So, lemme ask ya’…why’s it that every year round this time we get called out to this here neck of the woods to attend to a burnin’ car?”
Sergeant Harris inhaled slowly. He just knew someone would ask him this question. “Well Carron, I don’t know the ‘why’ of it. But, there is an old story about this stretch of highway. Most of the townsfolk know it. The town hive starts a buzzin’ every year we find another burnin’ car.”
Greeley stopped collecting evidence, turned around and leveled Sergeant Harris with a dead pan stare, “Wait, you’re saying this happens every year?”
“Now don’t get your panties in a bunch Greeley. But yeah, I am sayin’ it happens every year, around the same time, and on the same stretch of highway.” He took off his hat and ran his hand through his graying hair, returning the hat to his head and sighing before continuing, “I can guarantee that we won’t find any evidence that incriminates anyone but the driver. We’ve been over every single one of the crime scenes with a fine tooth comb. There is nothing that points to an outside source…ever. It all ends up being ruled a vehicular homicide. We’ll no doubt find the same here.”
Carron piped in, “What about that old story Sarge? Yer’ killin’ me here.”
“Alright, alright Carron. I’m gettin’ to it.” He removed a pack of Marlboro’s from his front pocket, took out a smoke and lit it. He inhaled deeply and exhaled a cloud of smoke as he said, “There is something that happened round these parts in the 1600’s. You know when them witch trials were going on in Salem? Everyone was a fanatic in those days.”
Harris took another drag of his cig, wisps of smoke escaping as he spoke, “Well, it seems that some townsfolk took it upon themselves and went after a woman named Elizabeth James. She lived alone out here in the woods. Few teenagers went missin’ back then. The folks organized a search party and found some…things on her land.” He shuddered visibly.
“Anyway, what they found was human remains tied to the trees around her land. They were burnt to a crisp, faces all contorted in pain.” Harris stared at the glowing end of his smoke, “Seems the townsfolk felt she was guilty as hell and gave her swift judgment.”
Sergeant Harris looked up and met both Greeley and Carron’s horrified expressions and shrugged, “Well, they all figured ‘an eye for an eye’ and burnt her at the stake right then and there. It’s all in the town record. She was the only ‘witch’ burnt at the stake in our entire town history.” He gestured down the road, “Was right down the road from here it happened. You ask me, she deserved what she got.”
Greeley shook his head, as if to come out of his thoughts, “So every year since then…”
“A person has died on this stretch of road. Fire is always involved.” Sergeant Harris finished for him and flicked his cigarette. “So…um…anyways, hence the town legend of the ‘Wraith of Flames’. That’s what they call it anyway.”
WHOOSH. A ball of flame went up into the air. All the men ducked. The fire quickly died down. They all straightened from their crouch and looked toward Sergeant Harris.
Sergeant Harris shrugged and said, “What? Guess my smoke got a bit too close to the gas puddle…oops.”
They all laughed and went on with their investigation.