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Cold Crossing

A Horror Short Story

By Jacob PeytonPublished 2 months ago 11 min read

“This is a long way to row man.” Paulie hollered back as Wayne's paddle dipped once more into the water. He was right it was a long way to row, but he also knew Paulie hadn’t really wanted to come out here in the first place, it was a difficult trip in the summer, it was worse in the winter.

Wayne had to force him to come, if he didn’t Wayne had threatened to tell Paulie’s mom where he hid his weed. He wasn’t proud of it, but Paulie was one of his best friends and he didn’t know anyone else who’d do it, or that would be able to paddle a canoe in the middle of the night and safely into the crossing for that matter.

Besides they had to come out here, it was the only way that Wayne would discover what really happened to Shannon. Shannon was his friend, Paulies friend too. “It’s the only way we’re going to get an answer.” He reminded Paulie for the fourth time since they’d left the shore.

“The cops said she probably just ran off know, met someone and split for awhile, teenagers do that stuff. I mean you don’t but I’ve done. Hell, I once got in a fight with my mom and stayed for two weeks with some cousins in Chesapeake. You remember that? I didn’t talk to anyone you guys included the whole time.”

Wayne shook his head, then realized Paulie probably couldn’t see him in the dark. “Not Shannon you know that as well as I do. We’re talking about a person who text’s us if she’s going to be late to school she wouldn’t just split without telling one of us, besides if it was you or me she’d keep looking for answers.”

“She’s probably fine. Shannon can take care of herself and she’d call us stupid for believing in children's stories.”

Wayne paddled harder, they’d been at if for awhile now and he was sure they were getting close. “If she was fine she’d of texted one of us to let us know by now. We’ve been like the three musketeers forever, she’d never let us worry like this.”

“It’s only been like four days, man.”

“That’s too long and you know it.”

At the front of the canoe Paulie sighed as he dipped his paddle. “But, why tonight?” He asked as though he didn’t already know the answer.

“Because there’s no moon tonight.” Wayne shot back, starting to get agitated. Paulie knew the stories as well as he did. As well as Shannon did for that matter. They’d all grown up hearing legends about three sisters crossing.

The story changed depending on who was telling it. Some say they were princesses gone to be traded to stop a war between two tribes. Others say that they were witches who drowned while calling down a storm for revenge on colonist who’d cast them out.

But, the one thing the stories all agree on is that if you go out to the crossing on a night with no moon, towards the spot where the earth has risen up from the river to mark their graves, and dare to face them they’ll give an answer any question you asked. Of course most the stories were about people going out there looking for the sisters to tell them the location of lost treasures, but Wayne figured they’d be more than able to find a person.

And if Wayne was right then they’d tell him where Shannon was so that they could bring her home. They’d tell him if she was okay.

Of course he understood why Paulie was scared, deep down he was too. There were drownings out here all the time. Officially because the Potomac could be a rough and unpredictable river, but the locals on both sides the river knew the truth of it. When someone drowned on a night with no moon they’d gone to the sisters looking for answers.

The sisters were known to be temperamental. If they wanted to answer your question they’d let you go, if not they’d drag you down to the bottom of the river. This was the price you paid if you came looking for their help.

“It’s up ahead.” Paulie called back from the front of the canoe, Wayne changed which side he was paddling on, that way they could come up beside the little islands and not beach them. It was supposed to anger them if you stood atop their graves. Paulie dropped their little make shift anchor off the side, an old concrete block connected to about ten feet of chain off the side. The splash got them both wet. The water was enough to make them shiver in the winter weather.

The sound of it felt like the only noise for miles. Wayne didn’t remember the last time they’d even heard a car. Which seemed impossible because they were so close to DC. It wasn’t like they were in the middle of nowhere. But, out here it felt like it. The river around the sisters mounds was eerily calm, and even the winter wind seemed to have calmed down..

To their right were the small islands, barely big enough for a couple people to stand on.Even if they were brave enough to try. No vegetation grew on them, just red clay and dirt.

Once the government tried to use them as foundations to build a bridge across the Potomac going into the capitol, but a storm came and destroyed all the construction. Just like the locals had said it would. If they’d listened a lot less of their workers would have drowned along the way.

He hoped he wasn’t about to anger them, but Wayne had to know the truth and despite what Paulie might believe the cops hadn’t been any help.

“No body, no crime.” That’s what they’d said, to her mother.

Hopefully there wouldn’t be a body at all. Wayne prayed. He hoped she was safe, his prayer was cut short however when the anchor finally found bottom and the chain pulled tight, jerking the canoe around.

“Whoa.” Paulie said holding the side to steady himself.

“You don’t have to do this.” Paulie said as the canoe stopped tilting, turning around and looking at Wayne.

Wayne shrugged, then he took of his shoes, jacket and shirt. Goosebumps erupted all over him as his bare skin was exposed to the winter air.

“I’m serious man I won’t judge cold as the river is you could get hypothermia or pneumonia down there.”

“If the stories are true that's the least of my worries.” He shot back and stood up in the middle of the canoe. This was the part he’d been dreading the most. The reason that a visit to the sisters was so dangerous in the first place. The only way to get the answers you wanted from them was to meet them deep in the river.

Before Paulie could talk him out of it Wayne jumped overboard into the water. He barely registered the sound of the splash as his body hit the water. Numb and cold, he could barely remember why he’d jumped in.

“Wayne? You okay?” Paulie asked turning on the flashlight they’d brought with them for the first time. The light blinded Wayne's eyes. “Yes.” He said as his teeth started chattering. “Now turn that damn light off man.”

Paulie did as he was told. Wayne swam up to the side of the canoe, Paulie was right he couldn’t stay in the water long, he needed to get a move on. Reaching over the side he grabbed his goggles and flash light. He slipped them on and turned on the light. He really hoped that the dive light he purchased at Walmart would work as well as the box said it would. Though he highly doubted it would, but it was still better than nothing.

Wayne nodded to Paulie once before steeling himself and diving down into the cold water. The current was strong, so he kept one hand on the anchor chain as he went. Once he was under he flicked on the light, not that he could see much in the greenish-brown river water, but it didn’t matter it made him feel safe.

His ears popped as he continued down a deeper into the depths. The stories weren’t clear on what he had to do other then get into the water on a night with no moon. He’d assumed the sisters would find him. Or be there waiting but when he looked around with his light he seemed to be all alone.

Wayne had been on the swim, so holding his breath wasn’t a problem but the deeper he went the colder it got and the harder it became to will his arms and legs to work. Maybe, this was stupid he thought, and considered surfacing and going home.

Just as that thought crossed through his mind he saw something out of the corner of his eye. At first he thought it was bunch of vegetation, like a clump of seaweed drifting towards him. Yet, as it got closer it seemed to have humanoid shape. Kicking down he started to push himself back up towards the surface, but as he did something grabbed his foot. First one then the other.

Wayne tried not to scream as he turned the light onto what was holding him. Boney, gnarled hands were clasped around his legs. He couldn’t help but stare as her head came into focus, his light reflecting on a grinning skull whose eyes seemed to hold some sort of unearthly light, dead hair wringing the white bone like some sort of underwater halo. As he stared another hand clasped around his right arm. Holding him in place, Wayne didn’t struggle, instead he reminded himself this what he came for. Behind him the water stirred and he didn’t have to turn around to know that the first one he’d seen was now there.

“Why have you come?” The three sisters asked together the words echoing in his mind, so he thought about Shannon, about why he’d came out here.

And together they gave him his answer.

Wayne gasped as he pulled himself back to the surface. The icy cold air hurt his lungs and made him cough. The sound clearly surprising Paulie who was in the process of pulling up the anchor.

“Holy shit man I’d completely given up on you.” Paulie shouted over as Wayne swam to the canoe and began to pull himself over the side. He was careful not to rock the little boat as not to flip it. A skill he’d perfected over the summer with his friends. Something which felt like years ago now.

“And so you were just going to leave.” Wayne said nastily.

“Too get help man calm down, what happened down there?”

Wayne shivered as the wind blew across the river, hastily he pulled on his shirt and jacket. It was just another reminder that it was still winter in Virginia and that they had no business being out in the river.

“I saw them.”

Paulie laughed. “Bullshit.”

“It’s not...I saw them down there and they told me everything, Paulie. And I mean everything.” Wayne told him, watching the blood run out of his friends face in the glow of the dive light.

“It was an accident man.” Paulie told him after a moment. “It was just an accident. You were on a date and I heard about this party on the other side of Alexandria in some abandoned house. She said she wanted to blow off steam so I said she could tag along. We were having fun and some guys had X and I thought it would help take the edge off.”

Wayne just stared at him.

“What? It was just X man… no one was supposed to get hurt. But, then Shannon starts having some kind of reaction.”

“And you didn’t call for help? You didn’t take her out of there?” Wayne asked his voice low and mean. “So what did you do Paulie?”

“I helped her upstairs...I thought she would be fine man. I didn’t want to get in trouble. Could you imagine how that would look to the cops?” Paulie all but pleaded. “She was just laying there man, and she wouldn’t keep her eyes open. I...I panicked.”

“So you just left her there. You left our best friend to die alone in some abandoned house like she was nothing.”

“I’m so sorry man.”

“Fuck you, Paulie.” Wayne said, Paulie didn’t even have time to register the oar before it slapped him in the side of the head, he groaned as he toppled off the side of the canoe and into the river. Wayne shivering watched as Paulie tried to swim to the surface, only to be dragged back down.

The truth had come with a price and in the end it had been an easy one to pay. Grimly Wayne started to paddle back. It was more difficult now with only one person, his shoulders, arms and back burned with the effort, but he didn’t glance back once.

Short StoryHorror

About the Creator

Jacob Peyton

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