A Short Story by JEdwardNolan


Author: JEdwardNolan
Created: May 18, 2017 at 08:16 am
Upload Type: Short Story, T (13+)  
Category: Horror | Ghost | Tragedy
Upload Stats: 21 views

Investigation


January 13, 1995


11:00PM


Bret Belmont walked along the icy highway, dim flashlight offering little light in one hand, his other hand cold on the chipped paint of the highway's wooden guard rails. Ahead, the guard rail was shattered as though something crashed through them in an excess of speed. He stepped consciously of the slick pavement, toward the break in the guard rail, and peered over the edge.


Then he saw it.


Down below, at the bottom of the steep cliff face was a school bus - the school bus - and from his position at the cliff side, he could hear the faint sound of voices from the crash site.


Brett Belmont, tabloid trash newsman - still a reporter - fell victim to his curiosity, and began carefully climbing down the side of the steep cliff face. Brett found the descent easier than he imagined it would be. He found himself at the first ledge just in time to lose his grip. The ledge was dirty, covered in old debris, and litter. Even among the accumulation of time, and litter, he found sharp pieces of broken glass, and dull yellow paint forever scraped into the face of the ledge from the moment of its first impact, the bus at the point where it split open in the middle, splaying open, and ending the lives of so many through its torn gaping maw on the way down.


Bret continued down past the first ledge, down the cliff and was thankful as it became less a cliff, and more a slope. As he descended, the crash site grew closer, and closer until he was standing only feet from the wreckage.


The bus sat as it was the day they recovered the fallen students, that horrible day January thirteenth, nineteen-fifty-six.


Mere feet from the bus, he could truly see the brutal wreckage as it was, it connected side resting snugly against a large boulder, the bus split into a macabre obtuse angle, the back end tilted and slightly angled on an incline on the mossy earth. The split scared him, its torn metal, and the jutting skeleton of the bus like teeth in a wide open steel mouth.


Bret shined through the dirt caked windows - those that still remained - to find he could still see through them, and to his abject horror, the silhouettes of people sitting in the chairs inside the bus, behind them, their faint chatter wafting out from the inside of the bus like an old static ridden AM radio.


"Jesus Christ!" Bret's shrill scream echoed through the valley below the highway, as he jumped at the sudden sensation of tugging on his sleeve, dropping his near useless flashlight at his feet. Standing beside him, holding his sleeve firmly enough, a beautiful young girl in a tattered cheer leading uniform stared at him intensely through bold hazel eyes, her striking features carving their way into his sight without remorse.


The girl released his sleeve and tilted her head, her blonde hair tied back in a red satin ribbon, her cascading curls pulled into a long pony tail bounced behind her.


Bret narrowed his eyes, cautiously knelt and recovered his flashlight. He stood slowly, his voice cracking, his tone defensive as though he were doing something wrong. "Who are you?"


"Who are you?" he asked, almost defensively-as if he were doing something wrong.


The girl stared at him, her face shifting to a sad expression, her eyes brimming. Without warning, she stared past him into the bus, and he watched as she moved - not walked - moved toward the bus, gliding gracefully into it, and taking her place in a seat near the back.


Bret followed her, unable to stop shaking, one careful step at a time. He only stopped at the mouth of the gaping split in the bus, shining the dim light inside. She sat next to another cheerleader, and inside the bus he saw the entire squad, and football team sitting in the seats, chattering quietly - soundlessly - as though they were still on that fateful ride to Pridewater for their game.


Bret took a deep breath, and one careful, stricken step at a time, he too climbed into the wreckage.


"You're Julie Anne Wood." He could see the frost from his breath. For all the cold, and rain in Driftwood, especially in January, he was surprised it was not snowing.


"I am." She nodded, her voice echoing in his ears.


Wide-eyed and pallid, Bret sucked in a deep breath, and released it slowly. He watched the frost descend from his mouth in a slow, thick fog. "Why am I here?"


Julie shrugged. "I don't know."


"How can I?" Bret felt tears spill onto his cheeks. "How can I help you?"


There was an overwhelming flood of sentiment over him as they locked eyes. "I am trapped down here almost forty years now. I am the only one among us who knows we are dead."


Bret shuddered, the sense of shock creeping into his expression. "You mean the others?"


"They don't know I'm here." Julie's melodic voice carried into his ears a awful hymn written in the notes of her sorrow.


"You were the last one..." Bret stood next to her seat, hesitating as he watched the others around her smiling, and laughing. He stared down at her. "You were..."


"The last one they recovered." She broke his gaze, staring through a shattered window at the boulder just outside her seat on the bus.


"Did they suffer?"


She shook her head. "No. Most of us died when the bus hit the ledge on the way down. The rest of us not long after. I survived long enough to get away from the crash."


"I saw." Bret put a hand on her seat, afraid to touch her. Afraid to try and touch her.


"I don't remember seeing you here."


"I mean, I read about you. You were found in the woods sitting against a tree. Your tears were frozen to your cheeks."


She nodded. "It was cold. It got a lot colder. As far as anyone at home knew, we were in Pridewater for the homecoming game. By the time they found us..."


"You froze."


"It was like... like falling asleep. It was cold. Then much colder... then it was warm. I was tired. I wanted to find my way home to Jonathan, but my body hurt so much. I just wanted to sleep until morning."


Bret cleared his throat, and wiped his face with the sleeve of his jacket. "They found you."


"Did they mourn me?"


"Who?"


"My friends... my family?"


"For quite a while."


She smiled. "I hope they're happy."


"You look exactly how you do in your yearbook picture."


Julie made a bashful smile, averting her eyes to her lap. "You remember me. Does anyone else remember me?"


"People moved on. People move on. I'm trying, though. I really am. Everyone and their mother should want to remember this, if anything to honor those who died... but also. Maybe so it doesn't have to happen again."


Julie looked at him strangely, but said nothing in return.


"I have more freedom than they do." She nodded to the others on the bus. I can come, and go... never father than the woods."


"It has to beat being stuck in here."


"I'm trapped either way. They cannot see me, they do not talk to me. They do not know I am here."


"You're lonely."


"You're here, now. It is nice to talk to someone."


"Still, lonely."


"Lonely, yes... but I'm not always alone."


"I don't understand."


"I've been watching you. Since you first started wandering around the crash. There is nothing for you to find. If you want answers you need to talk to the driver. You need to talk to Francis Briar."


"I tried. She isn't exactly happy to discuss the accident."


"An accident means no one was at fault. Stay with your facts, and lead her into telling you the truth. The truth, Mr. Belmont."


"How do you know my name?"


"You think louder than you speak."


Bret's expression softened, and he subdued a smile. Julie slowly lifted her gaze to meet his. She was stunning with her hair back, the bold features. The black and red cheerleader's uniform. Were she older, and still alive...


Julie giggled, and shook her head. "You're not my type."


"Thinking louder than I speak."


She nodded. "I have a boyfriend. Had a boyfriend."


"Did he die here, too?"


"No. Not here. Not with us." She frowned, and took a sharp breath through her nose.


"Oh."


"I can't be here much longer." Julie began to fade as light began to bear up from the gray horizon. "I will see you again."


"You will."


"I was not asking, Mr. Belmont."


"Ah, yeah."


"You need to wake up, now. You need to talk to her."


 




© JEdwardNolan - all rights reserved

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