A Short Story by JEdwardNolan

Author: JEdwardNolan
Created: May 18, 2017 at 08:11 am
Upload Type: Short Story, T (13+)  
Category: Ghost | Sad | Tragedy
Upload Stats: 55 views


Friday, January 13, 1995
10:00 AM

"Good morning, Mrs. Briar. My name is Bret Belmont. Are you familiar with Eye on Driftwood? I host the show."

"Yes, Mr. Belmont. I'm familiar with your news entertainment show. You're that tabloid reporter. Making your money off the misery of others, right?"

Bret stood in the doorway of Francis Briar's room. He nodded to the orderly, and stepped into the room, the door shutting behind him.

"Are you aware of where you are?"

"Since January Thirteenth of nineteen-fifty-six, I've been a resident of the Hillside Driftwood Medical Psychiatric Ward. South-East Wing. I'm not crazy you know, Mr. Belmont. They put me here as a punishment."


"They call their selves The Order."

"The Order." Bret stood close to the door, suddenly hesitant to continue on.

"Have a seat, Mr. Belmont. I'm not going to hurt you... not that I could if I wanted. I assure you, all the fight is taken from me." She raised her arms and showed him layers of bruising on her wrists, and forearms. "It is so rare that I have it in me to get out of line anymore."

Bret crept across her small room - a well disguised cell - and sat himself in a comfortable looking arm chair. He sat on the edge of the seat, cautious not to get too comfortable. "Mrs. Briar, before we begin... I forgot my pocket calendar. Could you tell me what day it is today?"

"Today is Friday... January the thirteenth, nineteen-ninety-five, Mr. Belmont."

"Do you understand why I'm here? Did anyone tell you why?"

"Yes. You're here to discuss the accident."

"Thirty-nine years to the day, Mrs. Briar. Do you remember the accident?"

Francis Briar's voice was  faint, a whisper of dry leaves cracking in the wind. "I remember it... all of it. So clearly... so clearly..."

"Are you okay, Mrs. Briar?" Bret Belmont sat rigidly on the edge of his seat, feeling uneasy.

"...a moment please, Mr. Belmont. To gather myself." The elderly woman offered him a smile

"I remember it clearly," she said, pausing, and then releasing a sigh. "Clearly."

The room was quiet a long time. It was a decent room, for someone committed, a few photographs fixed to the walls as never to be removed. A black and white photograph of a bus - the bus - held in a simple, modest frame. The room suddenly felt cold.

Bret cleared his throat with a forced cough. "Mrs. Briar?"

"Please," She grinned through a mouthful of long, cracked and yellowed, crooked teeth. "Call my Fran."

Bret stared at her, taking in the image of a woman, Fran Briar sitting at the end of her bed, her thin frame a living scarecrow, fragile looking hands folded neatly on her lap; her wispy white hair was a little wild, and Bret spotted old bruises around her neck, her wrists, and forearms as though she were the victim of many unspoken abuses.

"...Fran." Bret shifted. "I'm distressed. A bus full of high school students careening off highway rout fifty-seven, and you stood by and did nothing?"

"It wasn't like that at all, Mr. Belmont. I tried so hard to save them. I was thrown from the bus. I was injured. There was nothing I could do. If I could have, I would have... that is... I would have followed them down to the end if I could have."

"I read the old reports. Your bus hit the guard rail post, and you were thrown from the vehicle. You must have hit that post pretty hard."

Fran nodded.

"Could you please explain what happened next?"

"As I said, Mr. Belmont. I was thrown from the bus, injured."

"...a broken arm, it reads in the report."

"That's correct, Mr. Belmont." Francis Briar's expression was distant, eyes empty and glazed. "I saw the tail end of the bus go over the edge. The screaming. Such horrible screaming, and then... there was a second crash. The sound of breaking glass. Twisting, tearing metal. Then it was over. The screaming stopped. My students were silent."

"Did you try to get down there? Check for survivors?"

"I wanted to. I really did. I couldn't move. I could barely breathe. I couldn't climb down there." Fran's brow furrowed, and the years of guilt showed over her aged face. She looked as though, since the accident, she aged ten years for every year. She looked weak, frail, and bitter.

If her story was true, perhaps she had every right to be.

"Franny - can I call you Franny? Franny, I need more information. I'm pushing to reopen this investigation. People will forget this ever happened if I don't get the full story. I feel like I'm not getting it all. Can you help me?"

"Mr. Belmont - and yes, you may call me Franny - I've spent well over forty years trying to forget it ever happened. It's the last thought I have before I sleep... the first to greet me when I wake in the morning... never mind the nightmares. Why would you, or anyone else want to relive that horror?"

"If not for the case, then to clear any doubt over your involvement? This is true horror. It is real. It did happen, and the facts are facts." Bret reached for a briefcase beside his seat. He opened it, and drew a file folder. He opened the folder, and shuffled through a thick collection of reports inside it. He held the folder in one hand, and rubbed his forehead with the other. "Thirty-eight students were killed when the bus went over the edge. Thirty-eight young lives lost. There were no survivors of the rout fifty-seven incident."

"You're wrong, Mr. Belmont. There was one survivor, and I've had to live with that all these long years. I see them, you know."

"Do you see them right now?"

Francis Briar laughed grimly. "No, Mr. Belmont. I don't see pink elephants. I'm not some drunk on detox, and I don't hallucinate. I'm not a madwoman, no matter what the staff believes."

"...but there were no other survivors."

"All the more reason to forget it ever happened."

"People need to remember this tragedy and keep it close to their hearts. Maybe it means this never, ever has to happen again. Franny, this could clear your name. If you help me help you, you could get out of this place."

"Mr. Belmont, I can promise you nothing like that will ever happen again. It was a fluke. A freak accident. Inexplicable. I could not even begin to clarify this to you enough."

"You've got to try. Things like this can't be discarded! I need the information, and

you're the only survivor."

"Survive? Do you call this surviving? Maybe I walked away from the accident, but I didn't walk away from it free. Hillside Driftwood these past forty years. No visitors. I get to walk the gardens once a day. Maybe I didn't die, Mr. Belmont... but I am hardly what you could call alive."

"Franny, I'm not trying to upset you, and I'm sorry if I am. If you'll bear with me, I'll do my best to make this as easy, and painless as possible for you to continue."

Francis Briar was sallow, and she looked exhausted. "I'm not feeling particularly well, Mr. Belmont. Could we continue this tomorrow?"

Bret sighed, and nodded. "I'll be back tomorrow, Franny. Tomorrow, you're going to talk."


© JEdwardNolan - all rights reserved

Author Notes

This is the tenth incarnation of this story since I first wrote it at the age of sixteen, when I had the nightmare. The story IS based off a nightmare.

The narrative as seen through Bret Belmont are canonical to the nightmare, and the characters are canonical to those in the dream (down to the names). I guess, in this story, Bret Belmont is a version of myself from the dream, and his drives were my initial impressions when I first woke in a stupor from the dream.
This story's first incarnation was only a page and a half long, and was more like a recording of events, with little or no dialogue. That was twenty-two years ago. Each time I rewrote the story it gained a new dramatic element, which resulted in its first Print Publication in the Novel "Coven".
At the time, I thought it was a great tale, but rereading it as a man in his late thirties, I've found a great deal of dissatisfaction in passive sentences, and dialogue tags. If you're a reader of my work, you probably know by now I'm not a big fan of traditional dialogue tags. I don't like he said, she said, he smiled, she smiled, he growled, she purred, he bellowed, she screamed, he bla bla bla bla... I think I've developed a relatively good system for dialogue that prevents the distraction of how a person sounds when they're speaking.
The voice of a character, unless it's distinct, should be left to the imagination of the reader, and I hope I accomplished it in my work as you read them, but especially here when dealing with spirits of the dead.
I enjoy this story fitting into the chronology of the Driftwood Chronicles as an apocryphal text to my work, this and the other short stories. They're all a part of Driftwood, but not necessarily directly important to the Witch Hunter/Coven/City Walker narrative.

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